Go behind the scenes at the Kentucky State Police forensics lab

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – As National Forensics Week draws to close tomorrow, WNKY takes you inside the state’s largest crime lab for a behind the scenes look at how science answers the questions criminals leave behind at crime scenes.

Many techniques for test fires, such as firing a bullet into water are used by forensics analysts to find out which gun a bullet was shot from.

WNKY spoke to a Kentucky State Police firearms and toolmark examiner who asked to keep his identity private because of the nature of his job.

“I would be comparing two unknown items or one known, meaning a test fire and one unknown, meaning a casing from a scene in determining maybe a gun that’s recovered from a suspect could have been the one that was used to fire the cartridge casings that may have been left at the scene,” said the examiner.

According to Laura Sudkamp, the division director for the Kentucky State Police division of forensic services, police agencies from all over the state send their evidence to the state police crime lab for processing.

“We do a lot of support not just for the Kentucky State Police but every law enforcement agency in this state. We receive evidence from all of them. We work all these cases from all the different agencies. It is important for them to get acknowledged for what it is that they are doing and this kinds takes them out of the background and into the forefront so I find it very important,” said Sudkamp.

Important because forensic scientists are the hidden heroes in law enforcement rarely seen and rarely heard in public except for court testimony.

But, scouring through evidence and searching for DNA profiles, matches, and making sense of other evidence isn’t a quick job like some television shows make it seem, according to John Clemens, a forensic biologist.

“The expectation from law enforcement, from the public based off of these TV shows is that we are some all access miracle workers that is going to come up with an answer in 30 minutes to an hour based on the allotted time show, and it’s just not the case,” said Clemens.

But, even with misconceptions and tough days, these forensic analysts are passionate about what they do.

“What we want the community to understand is that we are here not as necessarily part of law enforcement but as civilians in Kentucky. We don’t have a badge. We don’t have a gun. We are just more scientists working for the good of the Commonwealth,” said Clemens.

“It’s just a fun job. It really is. Everyday is different. You never know what is going to come through,” said Sudkamp.

Kentucky State Police have smaller labs throughout the state, but the Frankfort lab processes the largest amount of evidence including toxicology, ballistics, and DNA casework.