History of the Bexar County Criminal Investigation Laboratory (BCCIL)
The BCCIL is part of the Bexar County Government. Administratively separate from the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office (BCMEO) since 1997, the BCCIL had its origin with the Bexar County Medical Examiner and the City of San Antonio Police Department. In 1984, the City of San Antonio (the City) and Bexar County decided to invest in a cooperative joint venture by creating the Bexar County Regional Crime Laboratory.
Forensic services from the City and County were consolidated under the auspices of the BCMEO. Personnel and capital equipment were merged into one laboratory. Though the lab was managed by the County, the City provided some additional financial. The BCCIL is currently housed in the Bexar County Forensic Science Center, along with the Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office, on the campus of the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.
Since January 2009, the BCCIL has been an ASCLD-LAB-International ISO 17025 accredited, state-of-the-art, full-service forensic laboratory with Drug Identification, Firearms, Serology/DNA, and Trace Evidence sections (originally ASCLD-LAB accredited in 1998). The BCCIL implemented Toolmarks examination services in 2012 and Impression Evidence services (Shoe Print and Tire Track Impression) in 2014 as additional scopes of available accredited disciplines through the Firearms section.
The BCCIL has provided forensic laboratory support for criminal investigation activities for agencies in approximately 50 counties in South Central and West Texas, several states and internationally, for the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police, the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, and the Royal Bahamas Police Force. The largest single agency customer served by the BCCIL is the San Antonio Police Department.
Bexar County has aggressively pursued new scientific technologies to aid the investigation of local crime. Starting in 1990, Bexar County established the first forensic DNA analysis laboratory in Texas using the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphisms (RFLP) protocols. By March 1996 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) based DNA analysis had been validated and added to the available technologies.
In April, 1996, the Serology/DNA section added equipment and software to participate in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) sponsored by the FBI. (Bexar County continues to strongly support the BCCIL’s commitment to CODIS: the County provided funds for the required upgrades of all the CODIS computer equipment to a state-of-the-art system capable of running the latest CODIS software.) While the CIL can only upload data to the Texas State DNA Index System (SDIS), we remain a National DNA Index System (NDIS) participant in good standing and fully comply with the NDIS and FBI Audit Document requirements for external audits every two years.
Since 1997, Federal grant awards through the National Institute of Justice in the Justice Department have supplemented Bexar County funds to enhance the implementation of new methods of DNA analysis. In 1998 Short Tandem Repeat (STR) DNA technology was validated and implemented by the Serology/DNA section using the Applied Biosystems PRISM®310 Genetic Analyzer. This new technology allowed for the semi-automated analysis of genetic material identified from crime scene samples.
In 2004 Y-STR technology, a technology that assists the analysts in the interpretation of male/female mixtures, as the female portion of the biological sample does not contribute to the amplified Y-STR genetic profile, was validated and implemented on forensic casework samples. The BCCIL incorporated the Applied Biosystems PRISM® 7000 Sequence Detection System (SDS) (since upgraded to the 7500 SDS in 2009) and upgraded the 310 Genetic Analyzers to the Applied Biosystems PRISM® 3130 Genetic Analyzers by 2006. A robotic DNA extraction system (Maxwell 16 by Promega) was validated and added to the section workflow in 2009.
Scanning Electron Microscopy
Bexar County’s support for innovative forensic technologies has not been limited to DNA analysis. Bexar County became internationally renowned for the development of an automated system for the examination of Primer Gunshot Residue (P-GSR) by Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) after Bexar County installed its first SEM in 1995, one of only three such systems in the United States that year and the only one in a local forensic laboratory. A second SEM was installed in 2004 and the first SEM was replaced with a new system in 2012.