In April of 2006, the Forensic Services Unit (FSU) of the Berks County District Attorney’s Office was created to assist law enforcement agencies in Berks County in several specialized areas. The primary function of the Forensic Services Unit is to assist police agencies manage and process crime scenes.
The Forensic Services Unit has expanded greatly since it's inception. Originally the unit was manned by two detectives. It has grown to include one sergeant, one corporal, three detectives, two civilian Digital Forensic Examiners and one civilian support person.
The Berks County District Attorney’s Forensic Services Crime Laboratory has met the standards for international accreditation in the field of forensic inspection from the American National Standards Institute – American Society for Quality National Accreditation Board (ANSI-ASQ). The scope of the accreditation included the forensic disciplines of crime scene analysis, computer forensics, and latent fingerprint processing and comparison.
There are over 15,000 forensic laboratories or police science units in the United States and very few are accredited to International requirements. The Berks County District Attorney’s FSU is one of only three law enforcement laboratories (Philadelphia Police Department and PA State Police) in the Commonwealth of PA that has been awarded such a prestigious accreditation.
In July of 2015, the FSU members led by Chief Michael J. Gombar and Sergeant Robert Johnson started their climb towards International Organization Standards (ISO) of accreditation. They spent months of preparing, rewriting policies, establishing updated procedures, and implementing annual proficiency testing. During this demanding process they continued to balance the everyday functions of a full-time forensic lab.
On October 18th through the 20th of 2016, an on-site assessor review was conducted by an ANSI-ASQ accreditation team of inspectors. This final part of the accreditation process consisted of a review of the unit’s policies and procedures, and the examination of all of the areas of the laboratory where the FSU members operate. They inspected the equipment and interviewed all of the FSU staff members. They reviewed case logs, reports, several major cases, training records, personnel files and equipment manuals. Each FSU member was asked a series of questions to demonstrate proficiency in the field, as well as to demonstrate their ability to use assigned equipment.
“By achieving accreditation, our forensic team is now recognized internationally for its integrity, reliability and technical competence. Additionally, they will better serve our constituents and strengthen the confidence of judicial authorities. This is an outstanding achievement.”
The Berks County Detectives' Forensic Services Unit is responsible for operating and maintaining Berks AFIS.
AFIS stands for Automated Fingerprint Identification System. Sergeant Robert Johnson and Corporal Justin Morrow are certified Fingerprint Analysts and together they operate Berks AFIS.
Automated fingerprint identification is the process of matching one or many unknown fingerprints
against a database
of known and unknown prints. Automated fingerprint identification systems are primarily used by law enforcement agencies for criminal identification initiatives, the most important of which include identifying a person suspected of committing a crime
or linking a suspect to other unsolved crimes. Sergeant Johnson and Corporal Morrow are members of the International Association of Identification (IAI).
Every police department in Berks County, including the Reading Police Department, submit fingerprints taken from crime scenes to Berks AFIS for identification. The Pennsylvania State Police do operate their own out-of-county AFIS labs, but submissions have been made through Berks AFIS to expedite their identification process.