x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Science becoming a force to fight crime

Police and health experts learn how to handle sensitive cases such as sex offences and violent abuse of children.

Faiz Mohammed Eltayeb Ali performs a test at the Forensic Science Department.
Faiz Mohammed Eltayeb Ali performs a test at the Forensic Science Department.

ABU DHABI // Police officers and health experts from across the capital have been given training on how to testify in court involving sensitive cases such as sex crimes and violence against children and the methods used to trap the culprits.

More than 120 specialists - police officers, forensic experts, doctors and paediatricians - attended a conference in Abu Dhabi and took part in 15 sessions covering topics such as how to handle criminal investigations and court procedures, in line with science leading the way in the future of policing the emirate. In a statement yesterday, the police's Forensic Science Department said the training on crime-scene-related matters focused on "criminal sexual offences, sexual assault and violence against children". The FSD has been given the task of everything from crime scene management to laboratory DNA tests.

The sessions were an opportunity for the crime scene unit to "familiarise the experts with the latest tools to handle criminal investigations and to discuss with them the process of testifying in court if necessary," the statement read. Col Saif al Amari, director general of the public security unit in the FSD, stressed to the conference the importance of being one step ahead of criminals. "We must keep pace with the changing face of crime and raise our target to gain more technical skills and practical experience in the areas of police and security to fight against crime," he said.

There are seven units within the FSD: the biology unit tests for DNA and maintains a database of profiles; the documentation unit tests the authenticity of passports and currency; the arson unit investigates the cause of every fire in the emirate. The fingerprinting unit compares data collected from crime scenes with an in-house fingerprint database; the weaponry and firearms unit can derive scientific information from items ranging from shell cases to the dents on an axe; the technical unit is charged with photography, videography and reviewing CCTV camera footage; and the analytical chemistry unit is responsible for testing alcohol, poison and narcotic content.

During December 2008 the forensics department handled 551 cases specific to the Abu Dhabi emirate, which is considered a slow month for the men and women working in the FSD. In addition to the seven units of forensics, there is the crime scene section,which is further divided into major and minor crimes with 120 experts combined. Every police station across Abu Dhabi has a crime scene manager who oversees the entire operation and ensures the security of material evidence.

The manager decided who crosses the yellow tape and what unit from the FSD is called to the scene for further examination. Once the evidence has been examined, it will be passed on to the appropriate authority: the police, public prosecution, the courts, state security or criminal investigation department. The crime scene training village was established in September 2005 within the Abu Dhabi Police College as the force began to gear up and increase its manpower.

Initial courses are run three times a year and last between nine and 12 weeks. The village, under the direction of Major Salim al Darai, boasts some of the most advanced technology in the region. Major al Dairi was quoted in yesterday's statement as saying: "There is a need to increase the quality of information and evidence submitted to the courts, which will increase the quality of justice being served and will avoid those who are innocent from being guilty."

The tools being used in the training village are also being used by Scotland Yard in London. The four lead trainers in the village are forensics experts from various law enforcement agencies in the UK. Police, prosecutors, doctors, child specialists, nurses, midwives and fingerprint experts are among those being trained. myoussef@thenational.ae