New evidence-drying cabinets donated to Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office

July 31, 2018
evidence-drying cabinet

A new evidence-drying cabinet has been installed at the Santa Barbara County sheriff's substation in Santa Maria, thanks to a donation from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Benevolent Posse.
Contributed by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office

by Gina Kim for Santa Maria Times

Crime scene lab technicians now will be able to handle evidence more quickly and efficiently, thanks to the donation of two advanced air-drying cabinets to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Benevolent Posse donated the $14,000 cabinets, which now are installed at the sheriff's Santa Maria substation and Santa Barbara headquarters. The purpose of the cabinets is to protect evidence from airborne pathogens and cross-contamination while protecting personnel from exposure to odors, harmful bacteria and viruses.

Technicians must handle biological evidence found at crime scenes, and they can go from processing one item of evidence to hundreds of items for a single criminal case, according to senior crime technician Mike Ullemeyer.

"There were times when we were in our crime lab having to air dry bloody clothes on a clothesline, which is pretty gross and clearly not the best way to forensically preserve evidence," said Ullemeyer, explaining evidence that is wet must be dried safely and properly.

The telephone booth-sized cabinets come equipped with air filters, which continuously dry items kept securely inside the chamber.

"These cabinets don't just help preserve evidence but also help us preserve our own health, even though we wear masks and gloves every day," he explained.

Previously, evidence-drying cabinets only were installed in the property rooms of the Santa Maria substation and Santa Barbara headquarters, which proved to to be a nuisance to personnel, according to Ullemeyer, when technicians had to pick up evidence from one location, rip open the package, repackage it, then bring it to the lab.

The new cabinets are installed in each location's lab.

"Having our own drying cabinets right here in the forensics lab is a huge convenience, and it also speeds up drying time plus less travel time for us," Ullemeyer said. "You don't want to keep ripping evidence bags open, take items out, then reseal them. You want to just get it directly from the scene, bring it to the lab and process it and it lessens the chance of anyone handling bloody, gross items more than they have to."

"Every division has their own needs, just like the Forensics Unit," he added.

Those needs include infrared, ultraviolet camera light systems that detect things like blood stains on dark-colored clothing and facial recognition software that can identify subjects in photographs, according to Ullemeyer.

Senior crime technician Nancy Fabela added another high priority need is extra funding to train new forensic technicians, as a typical in-house training course takes two years and requires a lot of time and money.

Both Fabela and Ullemeyer remain grateful for donations and stress that officials still are able to complete their tasks with their current equipment.

"Not having certain equipment won't ever keep us from doing our jobs," Ullemeyer explained.

He also extended his gratitude to the Sheriff's Benevolent Posse, a nonprofit public benefit corporation whose members are always seeking ways to get more technology and equipment to all divisions.

The posse is made up of non-law enforcement volunteers who work to assist the Sheriff's Office meet needs not covered by the county's budget, according to President Richard Kline.

In light of recent disasters county residents have endured, posse members are working to raise funds for extra protective suits, helmets, throw-rope bags, personal flotation devices and GPS monitors.

"We're never not without serious disasters, and our departments aren't fully equipped to handle all those disasters," Kline said. "Unfortunately, we have such a constrained county budget right now, just like other counties in California, so there's always a challenge for public sectors to fill needs to make their jobs easier.

He added, "We want to help the men and women of the Sheriff's Office who protect us every day, and want to help make their jobs easier, more effective and more efficient."


Reprinted from Santa Maria Times - view original article » 

Gina Kim covers crime and courts for Santa Maria Times. Follow her on Twitter @gina_k210