History of CFLP
The history of the Central Forensic Laboratory of the Polish Police goes back to the beginning of the 20th century and is associated with launching forensic examinations to contribute a more efficient detection of criminals and the formation of forensic laboratories. As early as in 1919 the State Police in Poland started to create criminal files with fingerprint cards as well as the collections of firearms, toolmarks, counterfeits, scene of crime photographs, or mugshots. The Police Commander-In-Chief in his order of 4th October 1919 instructed all police officers to be submitting all items and tools to the Chief Police Headquarters for the purpose of detection of latent fingerprints as well as the fingerprints already collected at the crime scenes. In the order of 10th May 1921 the following units were mentioned as functioning in the structures of the Chief Police Headquarters: Criminal Register, Dactyloscopy, Photography, Laboratory. The tasks of the Laboratory, as laid down in the Order of 21st January 1928, included the following:
- identification of all the evidence in theft cases (latent fingerprints, legs, teeth, breaking tools etc.);
- identification of firearms based on bullets and cartridge cases found at the crime scenes;
- identification of cutting/chopping tools (e.g. axes);
- determination of the way and the means the documents were falsified;
- cases involving typewritten texts;
- handwriting examinations excluding anonyms of minor importance.
At that time, the Police Laboratory did not perform the examination of blood traces, hairs, excrements etc. neither the fingerprint examinations which were dealt with by the Central Service of Investigation. The Police Laboratory was equipped with a lecture room and practical exercises room where intensive training courses for police officers and investigators were taking place. The training was also delivered to associate judges and examining magistrates; in addition, specialist courses in the area of scene of crime investigation for the post security service were conducted as well as lectures in forensic science delivered for the Forensic Seminar of the Warsaw University. In 1935 the Police Laboratory was allocated to the Department V of the Chief Police Headquarters in Warsaw. The scope of responsibilities remained the same as of 1928. In 1937, the Central Fingerprint Register contained the manual collection of 635.000 TP cards.
The first forensic establishment to emerge shortly after the Second World War (1945) was the Scientific and Technical Expertise Section, contained within the structures of Criminal and Investigative Service of the Militia. The Section carried out only the examination of fingerprints and documents. After several years, the next fields of expertise were added (firearms and toolmarks). The Section was closed down in 1949, which affected the effectiveness of investigative work performed by Militia due to infrequent cases of forensic examinations requested at the pre-inquiry stage.
In 1954, the Scientific and Technical Department was set up within the Investigative Unit of the Militia to be transformed into the Institute of Criminalistics the following year. The Institute was a casework service provider primarily to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, employed few staff members (experts) and was equipped with unsophisticated instrumentation. The year 1954 is also marked by the launch of the Institute publishing activity. Investigative tactics and technique dedicated “Biuletyn” started to appear to change its name into the contemporary “Problemy Kryminalistyki” shortly afterwards. The Institute was also responsible for education and training activities by delivering specialist courses at the Militia Officer’s School in Legionowo.
In 1958, the Institute changed its name into Forensic Department of the Militia Headquarters. This entailed the expansion of scientific scope and resulted in more independence. At the same time, field scene of crime units were reinforced both in terms of manpower and technical equipment. In course of time, the Forensic Department of the Militia became the country’s more prominent scientific and research institute in the area of forensic examinations having a decision-making influence on the development of practical and theoretical aspects of forensic science.
One of the most significant events to attest to an increasing scientific rank of the department was the establishment of the Scientific Council in 1985. The tasks of the Council included, among others, to initiate and outline general trends in research and development area, improve methods, monitor and evaluate overall forensics-related scientific activity. The coordination of research and development programs of other police forensic examination departments in Poland as well as individual experts also constituted a vital part of the Council’s activity. The Scientific Council was the one to set forth the postulate of establishing the Forensic Institute.
In April 1989, the Minister of Internal Affairs established the Forensic Institute of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to be supervised by the Militia Commander-In-Chief. The Institute played an outstanding role in the development of forensic examinations by bringing together the technique and tactics of criminal investigation. This was possible due to adequate technical and manpower resources. The experts employed in the Institute representing various scientific disciplines and the possibility of acquiring the state-of-the-art equipment contributed to in-house development of bespoke examination tools or noticeable improvement of the ones already existing. The milestone in the examination potential of the Institute involved elaboration and practical implementation of DNA typing method to allow for human identification.
Also, the development of laser technology used for visualization of latent prints took place alongside the introduction of computer-aided examinations in the field of fingerprint examination, physics and chemistry, toolmarks or firearms. Novel methods developed by experts provided for the determination of age of fingerprints, speech identification, reconstruction of human appearance basing on non-complete anthropological features. The Forensic Institute along with the field laboratories of the Militia was capable of performing more than 96% of the total number of casework examinations submitted by law enforcement and justice system in Poland. It is also worthwhile to mention that each year the experts of the Institute carried out “beyond forensic” examinations, important for the state economy, technology, history of arts, public health system, etc. The Institute maintained a close collaboration with other scientific institutions, such as: the Polish Academy of Science, Institute of Forensic Research, Military Technical Academy, Institute of Plasma Physics and Laser Micro Synthesis, universities, high schools of technology, forensic pathology institutes and many others in Poland and abroad.
In 1990 the overall reorganization of the Ministry of Internal Affairs resulted in the abolishment of the Militia, which was transformed into the Police force. As a consequence, in 1992 the Central Forensic Laboratory of the Polish Police (CFLP) was created within the structures of the Chief Police Headquarters which directly reported to the Police Commander-In-Chief.
At the beginning of the 1990s when the “iron curtain” was abolished and Poland became open for cooperation with the countries outside the Warsaw Pact the process of implementation of IT solutions to police forensic examinations was initiated. The main direction of development of CFLP involved the implementation of new examination methods based on sophisticated, highly specialized instrumentation as well as the creation of central, IT-based forensic databases and collections, such as AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System), ASIB (Automated Firearms Identification System), or national early warning system on new drugs. The national DNA database was set up in 2007, whereas VIN database and related FAVI (Forensic Aid in Vehicle Identification) project in the years which followed. The future belongs to the extension of already functioning databases and the establishment of new ones to enable a fast typing and identification of offenders, such as shoeprint collection or collection of electronic payment instruments (credit cards, etc.).
In October 2010, by virtue of the Regulation of the Minister of Interior and Administration on the establishment of research and development unit, the CFLP became a full-fledged research institute.
Nowadays, the main objective of the Central Forensic Laboratory of the Police is to carry out the tasks of the Chief Police Headquarters in delivering technical and forensic means for the prevention and fight against crime through conducting, amongst others, research and development activities and forensic casework.
Nationally, the CFLP supervises national network of police forensic laboratories, including scene of crime units in terms of scientific support, develops forensic examination methodologies, promotes quality management issues and grants the authorization to perform expert statements. The Institute has been accredited according to EN ISO/IEC 17025 standard, and maintains the quality management system in place. On the European level, the Institute has been a member of ENFSI (European Network of Forensic Science Institutes) since 1995, and actively takes part in the development of research methodology, procedures and standards to be used during scene of crime investigation.