Crime Labs History

Test firing a gun into a cotton-filled waste basket

Today we assume every police department has a laboratory where they can study materials found at the crime scene, but such things are relatively new to the police profession. I needed to know whether Los Angeles had a crime lab in 1925 and if so, what sort of work it handled. Here’s what I found:

The LAPD opened its first crime lab in 1923, so it did exist during the time my story takes place in 1925. Los Angeles had one of the first, if not the first, crime lab in the United States. The very first crime lab is commonly thought to have opened in France in 1910. In America, various large cities got on board much later, for instance, New York and San Francisco didn’t set up crime labs until 1935. These labs were staffed by chemists and other assistants, with various scientists and technicians hired by the day as needed. 

What did they do? Obviously not DNA research. Early work focused on things like ballistics, photography, hair samples, blood work, clothing fibers, paint chips, and tire treads.

Published in: on February 13, 2011 at 2:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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