Study Visit to Slovenia’s National Forensic Laboratory Opens Doors for Strengthened Cooperation

The Head of the Forensic Department Dr. Slobodan Oklevski and the Head of the Section for Latent Print and Preparation and Selection of Biological Traces, Mr. Ivan Koteski from the Public Security Bureau, have conducted a three-day study visit – 7 to 9 September 2016 - to the General Police Directorate of Slovenia.

The main purpose of this round trip, organized by the EU funded project for “Further Institution and Capacity Building of the Police Service (FICB PS)”, was to visit the recently modernized and upgraded National Forensic Laboratory (NFL) in Ljubljana, review its infrastructural capacities, the organization of the laboratory and equipment set according to the highest contemporary standards. Furthermore, crime scene investigation units in Police Directorates of Ljubljana and Celje were visited in order to become familiar with their operational, organizational and technical capacities.

This study visit presented an opportunity to exchange experiences in the field of forensic examinations, discuss possible cooperation in accreditation processes, technical assistance and exchange of experts.

Dr. Dorijan Kerzan, Director of NFL, unselfishly shared good practices and insights in the area of forensic management with his counterpart Dr. Slobodan Oklevski, and offered “open doors” approach in terms of accreditation and operational processes, welcoming at the same reciprocity for up-coming projects and operational cooperation.   

“As a result of this study visit we have initiated three projects in the area of forensic analysis for which we are now applying for funding to the Technical Assistance and Information Exchange (TAIEX) instrument of the European Commission. The projects will focus on: Detection and analysis of ignitable liquid residues from fire debris, along with validation of methods and accreditation; Analysis of automobile paints and ways of using databases in this area; and Visualization of latent prints with Cyanoacrylate and Ninhydrin.  We are confident that Slovenian experiences and expertise in these areas will greatly contribute to the advancement of our forensic capacities. In return, we will assist our Slovenian counterparts in their efforts to improve their system of barcoding the evidence and the chain of custody, since our reformed model has proved to be successful and stands as a positive example,” highlighted Dr. Slobodan Oklevski, Head of the Forensics Department at the Ministry of Interior

First stop was at the Laboratory for analysis of biological traces and DNA identification, where the delegation had a chance to observe the preparation and selection of bio traces, with special consideration to the measures for avoiding contamination, and to discuss with their Slovenian counterparts organizational aspects and systematization of the laboratory, the evidence storage capacities, as well as the chain of custody referring,  analysis and expertise, up to the last stage of completion of the forensic processing. The PSB delegation continued their visit to the Section for chemical examinations – the Laboratory for analysis of drugs, the Laboratory for analysis of trails of fires and explosions and the Laboratory for analysis of paintsand varnishes.  

In frames of the visit, a meeting was organized with Mr. Damjan Zagar, Head of the Training Center at the Police Academy in Tacen, Ljubljana, to exchange experiences and practical knowledge related to training and recruitment of new forensic technicians, for a reason more that the first basic 30-days training for the present forensic staff is envisaged to take place in the Training Center Idrizovo.  

Among other laboratories the delegation of the Public Security Bureau (PSB) visited the ballistic laboratory and the shooting range, and got familiar with the examination of ballistic evidence, followed by a visit to the laboratory for mechanical traces (tool marks, footprints), the laboratory for fingerprint examination, the segment for document (handwriting) analysis.

The PSB delegation, led by FICB PS project’s team-leader Aleksander Krebl, also visited the premises of the crime scene investigation units in the Police Directorates of Ljubljana and Celje, to get acquainted with the organizational structure of the crime scene teams, the evidence collection and on-site investigation, packing and transporting the evidence to the NFL, as well as the decentralized approach in analyzing evidence of shoeprints and locks. In addition, experiences were shared regarding required knowledge and training of the Forensic Department’s members and officers at the Police Stations.

“In Slovenia, each of the eight Police Directorates (corresponding to the regional Sectors for Internal Affairs) has its own crime scene investigation units with skilled investigators. Furthermore, group of police officers from each Police Station for General and Traffic Policing, receive 3 months forensic training and are competent enough to perform basic forensic investigations at the crime scene. In more serious crime cases and when assistance is needed, forensic officers from Police Directorates overtake and lead criminal-forensic investigations. Experts employed at the NFL are mainly engaged in in-house lab work, but whenever their assistance is needed they come out to the crime scene,” pointed out project’s team-leader, Mr. Aleksander Krebl, Expert in General Policing.

Enhancing the forensic capacities of the Police has been envisaged in the “Police Development Strategy 2016-2020”, developed as one of the key documents in frames of the FICB PS project.

The Strategy foresees strengthening of the capacities of the forensic laboratories and Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) units at central and regional level in the next five years. In this context, it is very important to construct a new building, primarily intended to host the forensic laboratories, which will enable expanding forensic analysis and will secure their full accreditation in accordance with ISO/IEC17025. The next step would be to support the regional offices to perform crime scene investigation and review the possibility for their accreditation, as well as to enable decentralization of analysis in the areas of mechanical traces of locks and footsteps at regional level, following the Slovenian model. 

Conclusions from the study visit represents excellent platform for further cooperation that would contribute to the implementation of the forensic action plan of the “Police Development Strategy 2016-2020” in practice.

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