First-ever forensic science laboratory

Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) inaugurated the first-ever forensic science laboratory at Serbithang, Thimphu on 23 November.

With the establishment of the first-ever forensic science laboratory, the conventional methods that take longer days for DNA Profiling and result interpretation will no longer be a problem.

With state-of-the-art instrument installed at the laboratory, it can provide high-quality forensic profiles within 2 days enabling law enforcement personnel to generate real-time investigative leads and identify suspects faster.

DNA profiling from any biological samples and its matching with the reference samples will be available now.

It was known that previously RBP used to send the evidences to India and UK.

The Commanding Officer of the Forensic Unit, Tashi Phuntsho, shared that the time around time for processing of evidences and receipt of result take longer time and is also quite expensive.

“With the setting up of laboratory in our country, the turnaround time for providing evidence-based result from the crime scene to identification of suspect will be shortened drastically. The exhibit storage and receipt room has been catered separately with adequate security requirement, and has also been installed with walk in freezer at -20 degree for storage of the biological samples as per the international standard requirement,” the Commanding Officer said. 

He added, “With creation of data base and reference samples, this will help in solving the cold cases or unsolved crimes. However, it will depend on what evidences were collected in the past.”

He said that the laboratory will contribute to the overall improvement of the criminal justice system by enhancing the criminal justice system through the shift from confession based to evidence-based justice system.

He said, “The state-of-the-art instrument can provide high-quality forensic profiles in a short span of time enabling law enforcement personnel to generate real-time investigative leads and identify suspects faster. It will be an important tool in the overall crime reduction in the country and will also help in solving cold or unsolved crimes.”

Further, he shared that during the construction phase, the laboratory has been planned and constructed as ISO 7 Forensic Laboratory.

According to RBP, the Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC) system with required air flow, room temperature and pressure has been catered as per the ISO requirement. The laboratory set up and work flow including work process has been designed in line with the ISO requirement.  The laboratory fridges and contamination control box or pass box has been installed as per the international requirement.

“The consultancy services, Laboratory Build validation and process validation was carried out by Cell Mark Forensics Services, UK to ensure that the laboratory build and its process are in line with the required international standard and best practices,” the Commanding Officer said.  

He stated that the RBP has to aim for HR development and provide adequately trained man power and start working, making the working process robust and ensure it meets the international requirement.  Then slowly after 6 months to 1 year the laboratory can apply for accreditation which will ensure that the required international standard is maintained.

The RBP Management is already working to make linkage with other international laboratory for exchange of knowledge and expertise.

Further, the laboratory has to plan for document examination, forensic tool mark and fire arms identification unit.

He shared that with setting up of laboratory the crime work does not end at the laboratory.

“It starts from the Scene of crime (SOC) and ends at the Royal Court of Justices. It is imperative that every stake holder in the judicial process system understands how the DNA Profiling works. The laboratory analyst work is just to do the profiling but most important of all is the one working at the Scene of crime who should be able to collect, and send the best relevant and probable evidences that might give the best linkage to the suspect,” he said.

“It’s imperative that all OCs, investigating officers, crime clerks and forensic staff at the field level have to be trained and sensitized on the DNA and other evidences, including collection, handling and packaging of the evidences. They should be able to understand on identifying and collecting without contaminating the evidences at SOC,” the Commanding Officer said.

He also stated that the Forensic Science Laboratory has to sensitize Justices, Prosecutors, Senior Police officers, ACC officials and other law enforcement officers on the concept of DNA Profiling. They have to understand on the working process of the DNA and its uniqueness in the population.

“The Royal Court of Justices has to be convinced to accept DNA as a part of evidences in the court of Law. Therefore, it is imperative that we project for one academic block at the laboratory site so that we can provide training, and also carry out the analysis work, which will really support in receiving best relevant and probable evidences without contamination from the Scene of Crime,” he said.

The Austrian Development Agency, provided a grant of EUR 851,488.56 for the construction of the laboratory.

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