Inside MPD's Forensic Services Unit


When you think of police officers, you probably think of the ones patrolling the roads with radar.

But officers have many different roles in the department.

One you don't hear of too often, except in shows like CSI or Law & Order: SVU, which are criticized by real-life law enforcement officers for glamorizing crime scene investigations, is a forensics unit investigator.

They are the unsung heroes of the department.

Lieutenant Mark Brown, supervisor of the Madison Police Department's Forensic Services Unit, says, "We are basically the CSI unit that you see on T.V."

But it takes a lot more work.

"These are two examples of two different surfaces," says MPD investigator Dan Roman while referring to two fingerprint samples, "One is paper, which is porous, and this is just a smooth glass plate."

From dusting fingerprints to comparing them to autopsies and photographs, 11 investigators use crime scene evidence to get the crooks off the street.

"That's one thing in here," says another investigator, Sheila Monroe, "Everything takes time."

Brown says although the job is interesting, it can get depressing.

"We can go for a week where people from this unit are dealing with death scenes every day. We see the bad things that society has done to people. You never see the positive things society has done for people," he says, "But on the other hand, within the unit we do a lot of positive work for society because if it wasn't for the forensics unit, cases more than likely wouldn't get solved."

And when they do...

"It's a good feeling," says Brown with a smile, "And then you move right on to the next one. It never ends."

Brown says they're working on anywhere from 2 to 20 cases at the same time in a given day.

The only work the MPD Forensic Services Unit doesn't do is serology, ballistics and DNA testing. That's done at the state crime lab.


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