The Charlottesville Police Department Forensic Unit has a long history of commitment to the field of forensic science and has gained national and international recognition for outstanding contributions in the field of forensic science, particularly through DNA crime scene processing. CBS Television, National Public Radio, and German Television have featured the investigative work of the unit in various stories.
Additionally, the Virginia Department of Forensic Science and Virginia Institute of Forensic Science and Medicine have recognized the unit for its effectiveness and success through the use of DNA Identifications, DNA Eliminations and the DNA Data Bank. The unit has led departments, per capita, in the area of DNA identifications, elimination, and cold DNA data bank confirmations. Such success proves paramount in the clearing of cold cases through the use of DNA. In July of 2003, the National Institute of Justice recognized these achievements with DNA through show-casing the unit at their annual conference in Washington D.C. Several members of the department have been called upon to lecture on DNA at local, state and national events.
A Detective Sergeant leads the unit, assisted by a detective and two civilian Forensic Support Specialists. The unit has 12 patrol and 3 detective evidence technicians at various skill levels. Evidence technicians handle most scenes and assist the supervisor and forensic detective on major incidents. Most of the unit members perform regular law enforcement duties as well as serve in the capacity of evidence technicians. The unit routinely responds to burglaries, robberies, recovered stolen vehicles, felony assaults, sexual assaults, and suspicious death investigations. The unit assists other local jurisdictions whenever possible.
The unit has three Forensic Technicians who are graduates of the Virginia Forensic Science Academy. A Forensic Technician is on call 24 hours a day to respond to major incidents. The Virginia Department of Forensic Science sponsors the academy, which is a nine-week resident course and trains 12 Officers from throughout the Commonwealth biannually. Students receive extensive training in crime scene photography, sketching, fingerprint processing, trace evidence, blood spatter analysis, forensic biology, forensic entomology, criminal profiling, crime scene analysis, and legal issues. Students also spend time with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner at autopsy to interpret wounds, cause and manner of death. Graduates attend re-training annually.
The unit’s Forensic Technicians also have received advanced specialized training in other areas such as mass-casualty incidents, advanced blood spatter analysis, fingerprints, firearms, explosives, death scenes, fire/arson investigation, criminal profiling and geographic profiling. Many hold memberships in associations such as the International Association of Identification, International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators, and International Association of Arson Investigators. Several of the Forensic Technicians are recognized experts in multiple forensic disciplines.
The Traffic Unit provides specialized support in the areas of traffic enforcement, traffic control, and accident investigation. The unit is comprised of 1 Sergeant, 3 Traffic Officers, 5 Community Service Officers, and 7 School Crossing Guards. Responsibilities include the investigation of fatal traffic accidents; conducting follow-up hit and run investigations; reviewing accident reports; maintaining traffic accident statistics; conducting selective enforcement activities; developing traffic safety programs; acting as a liaison with City traffic engineers; traffic direction; resolving citizen complaints concerning traffic problems; providing traffic control for special events; parking enforcement; and school crossing safety. The Department has 5 Harley-Davidson motorcycles assigned to the Traffic Unit.
The Charlottesville Police Department's K-9 Unit has two dogs that specialize in narcotics and tracking, and one dog that specializes in explosives detection.
K-9 Officer Brewster
K-9 Officer Brewster and his handler Officer J. Burnett joined the K-9 Unit in 2019 after completing a training course through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for explosives detection. Brewster is an English Labrador Retriever.
K-9 Officers Kai and Bono
K-9 Officers Kai and Bono, along with their handlers Cpl. C. Huber and Ofc. J. Tennyson, joined the K-9 Unit in 2019 and are trained in narcotics detection and tracking. Kai and Bono are Belgian Malinois dogs.