Editorial: Building Collaboration

BEFORE YOU WALK through the front door of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) Criminalistics Laboratory in Kansas, you begin to get a sense of the care that went into its design. The building is not an imposing, institutional brick of concrete. To the contrary, it is surrounded by landscaping and even features a “green” roof planted with native prairie flora—elements that help it blend in with the residential lots that nudge right up to the laboratory’s property.

As you advance inside, you realize that much of this care was centered around the goal of establishing a collaborative environment. Inside, personnel are greeted by large, open spaces. Section supervisors’ workspaces are set right alongside the rest of the sections’ cubicles. There is an easy and logical flow between the different laboratories housed in the facility.

This sense of collaboration develops further when you look at the crime scene investigation section. The JCSO pushed slightly ahead of the curve by obtaining ISO accreditation for its CSI section. Now, working with a set of sound protocols and procedures, the JCSO has ensured that science begins in the field—not at the front door of the lab.

The JCSO has established a new facility that answers to some of the issues raised by the National Academy of Sciences 2009 report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward. Building a new criminalistics laboratory was not simply about creating more space to spread out or obtaining new equipment. It was about seizing the opportunity to work closely with personnel to build a tool that would help them do their jobs better and easier—and to maintain meticulous scientific standards.

Overall, the building is a place where police, evidence technicians, forensic scientists, and attorneys can meet, communicate, learn, and cooperate.

The concept in itself seems so simple. Hopefully, in the near future, it will be possible for other agencies to make it the standard.

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Evidence Technology Magazine

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