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The History of the Columbus Police Crime Laboratory

In 1945, Lloyd Shupe was hired as the first Police Chemist for the Columbus Police Department. Mr. Shupe became widely respected for his research in alcohol analysis techniques used in impaired driving investigations. Mr. Shupe also responded to crime scenes and performed other forensic analyses as necessary to support the investigation of crimes typically committed during that era. The laboratory eventually settled into space at the old Police Headquarters building, now the Central Safety Building.

In 1975, the crime laboratory expanded into a 6000 square foot facility located above the Franklin County Coroner’s Office on King Avenue.  The laboratory services offered included alcohol and drug analysis of solid materials as well as in body fluids, firearms analysis, serology, trace evidence, latent fingerprint processing, and questioned documents.  There were 6 employees at that time and the City signed a lease with Franklin County for space that was expected to adequately house the laboratory for 40 years. The number of staff and services offered remained steady until 1989 when the crime laboratory one of the first public laboratories in the U.S. to implement DNA technology. 

During the 1990’s, rapid changes in technology changed forensic analysis from a reactive support service to an active partner in investigations. In 1996, the laboratory was one of the first to obtain Drugfire, a database capable of linking firearms to crime scenes.  Drugfire served as the predecessor to the NIBIN system, a national database which has resulted in over 2200 matches in Columbus alone.

In 2001, the Columbus Police Crime Laboratory went online with the FBI’s new database of DNA profiles, the Combined DNA Indexing System or CODIS. CODIS made it possible to identify serial crimes committed by single individuals using DNA analysis. Throughout the years, CODIS has provided over 7000 hits between Columbus crime scenes and convicted offenders or arrestees and has truly revolutionized the investigation of all crimes. 

In 1999, the laboratory achieved its first accreditation. In 2005, we were the first full-service municipal laboratory to earn accreditation following ISO 17025 standards. Accreditation is only awarded after a successful assessment is performed to ensure compliance with standards covering personnel, methods, facilities, and evidence handling. The laboratory achieved its latest accreditation in 2018.

In April 2015, the laboratory moved into a new state-of-the-art 35,000 square foot Forensic Services Center on East Woodrow Avenue. There are now 30 staff members at the laboratory with scientists performing analysis in firearms, latent print development, DNA, drug analysis, and questioned documents.