SAPS Forensic Services: Available Posts – July 2015

July 1st, 2015

New posts within the South African Police Service (SAPS) Forensic Services Division, under the Public Service Act, have been added to their website and are currently being advertised for July 2015http://www.saps.gov.za/careers/careers.php.

Please Note: Police officials are employed in terms of the South African Police Service Act, 1995 (Act No 68 of 1995) and civilian employees are employed in terms of the Public Service Act, 1994 (Act No 103 of 1994).

CLOSING DATE for all applications: 10 July 2015

PUBLIC SERVICE ACT POSTS

Click here to read the application process in terms of the Public Service Act.

Please download the full advertisement for all the new Public Service Act posts, including full requirements, core responsibilities, salary level and how to apply (PDF).

Download the official application form from the SAPS website.

The following posts are available:

1. Post Title: Colonel
Section Commander: Quality Management: Biology
Section: Quality Management: Forensic Science Laboratory
Component: Quality Management
Location of the post: Pretoria (1 Post) (Ref FS 600/2015)

2. Post Title: Major
Commander: Crime Scene Laboratories: Local Criminal Record Centre
Component: Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management
Location of the post:

  • Provincial CR & CSM: Cape Town: Western Cape: (1 Post) (Ref FS 601/2015)
  • Pretoria Central: Gauteng (1 Post) (Ref FS 602/2015)

3. Post Title: Major (Chief Forensic Analyst) [RE-ADVERTISEMENT]
Sub Section Commander: Mechanical & Metallurgical Engineering
Section: Ballistics
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Western Cape: Plattekloof (1 Post) (Ref FS 603/2015)

4. Post Title: Major [RE-ADVERTISEMENT]
Commander: Technical Management:
Section: Regional Quality Management
Component: Quality Management
Location of the post: Plattekloof: Western Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 604/2015)

5. Post Title: Major
Commander: Bomb Disposal: Explosives
Section: Provincial Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management
Component: Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management
Location of the post: Cape Town: Western Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 605/2015)

6. Post Title: Major
Commander: Complex / Serial DNA Case Review: Case Review
Section: Biology
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Pretoria: Gauteng (1 Post) (Ref FS 606/2015)

7. Post Title: Major
Commander: Drugs General: Chemical Analysis
Section: Chemistry
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Pretoria: Gauteng (1 Post) (Ref FS 607/2015)

8. Post Title: Senior Forensic Analyst (Lieutenant)
Sub Section: Semi Automation Reference Samples: DNA Analysis
Section: Biology
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Plattekloof: Western Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 608/2015)

9. Post Title: Senior Forensic Analyst (Lieutenant)
Sub Section: Fire Investigation: Chemistry Investigation
Section: Chemistry
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Pretoria: Gauteng (1 Post) (Ref FS 609/2015)

10. Post Title: Senior Forensic Analyst (Lieutenant)
Sub Section: Drugs Complex: Chemical Analysis
Section: Chemistry
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post:

  • Pretoria: Gauteng (1 Post) (Ref FS 610/2015)
  • Port Elizabeth: Eastern Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 611/2015)

11. Post Title: Senior Forensic Analyst (Lieutenant)
Sub Section: Routine DNA Case Review: Case Review
Section: Biology
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Pretoria: Gauteng (1 Post) (Ref FS 612/2015)

12. Post Title: Senior Forensic Analyst (Lieutenant)
Sub Section Commander: Institutional Development: Development Facilitation: Ballistics
Section: Development Facilitation
Component: Quality Management
Location of the post: Pretoria: Gauteng (1 Post) (Ref FS 613/2015)

13. Post Title: Lieutenant
Sub-Section: Bomb Disposal: Explosives
Section: Provincial Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management
Component: Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management
Location of the post: Durban: Kwazulu-Natal (1 Post) (Ref FS 614/2015)

14. Post Title: Lieutenant
Sub Section Commander: Explosives Control
Component: Criminal Record & Crime Scene Management
Location of the post: Johannesburg: Gauteng (1 Post) (Ref FS 615/2015)

15. Post Title: Forensic Analyst (Warrant Officer)
Section: Crime Scene Laboratories
Component: Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management
Location of the post:

  • Middelburg: Eastern Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 616/2015)
  • Mitchells Plain: Western Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 617/2015)
  • Paarl: Western Cape (2 Posts) (Ref FS 618/2015)
  • Protea Glen: Gauteng (1 Post) (Ref FS 619/2015)
  • Potchefstroom: North West (1 Post) (Ref FS 620/2015)

16. Post Title: Forensic Analyst (Warrant Officer)
Sub-Section: Chemical Processing: Crime Scene Laboratories
Section: Crime Scene Management
Component: Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management
Location of the post: Pretoria: National Office (1 Post) (Ref FS 621/2015)

17. Post Title: Forensic Analyst (Warrant Officer)
Sub-Section: Drugs General: Chemical Analysis
Section: Chemistry
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Silverton: Pretoria (2 Posts) (Ref FS 622/2015)

18. Post Title: Forensic Analyst (Warrant Officer)
Sub-Section: Fire Investigation: Chemical Analysis
Section: Chemistry
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Port Elizabeth: Eastern Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 623/2015)

19. Post Title: Forensic Analyst (Warrant Officer)
Sub-Section: Evidence Recovery
Section: Biology
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Pretoria: Gauteng (7 Posts) (Ref FS 624/2015)

20. Post Title: Forensic Analyst (Warrant Officer)
Sub Section: Image Analysis
Section: Scientific Analysis
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Pretoria: Silverton (1 Post) (Ref FS 625/2015)

21. Post Title: Forensic Analyst (Warrant Officer)
Sub Section: Organic Analysis: Material Analysis
Section: Scientific Analysis
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Pretoria: Silverton (1 Post) (Ref FS 626/2015)

22. Post Title: Forensic Analyst (Warrant Officer)
Sub Section: Microscopy Analysis: Trace Analysis
Section: Scientific Analysis
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Pretoria: Silverton (1 Post) (Ref FS 627/2015)

23. Post Title: Forensic Analyst (Warrant Officer)
Sub Section: Questioned Document Analysis
Section: Regional Laboratory
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Plattekloof: Western Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 628/2015)

24. Post Title: Forensic Analyst (Warrant Officer)
Sub Section: Ballistics Analysis: Ballistics
Section: Regional Laboratory
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Plattekloof: Western Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 629/2015)

25. Post Title: Forensic Analyst (Warrant Officer)
Sub Section: Metallurgical Engineering: Mechanical & Metallurgical Engineering
Section: Ballistics
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Pretoria (1 Post) (Ref FS 630/2015)

26. Post Title: Forensic Analyst (Warrant Officer) [RE-ADVERTISEMENT]
Sub Section: Profiling: Material Analysis
Section: Scientific Analysis
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Silverton: Pretoria (1 Post) (Ref FS 631/2015)

27. Post Title: Forensic Analyst (Warrant Officer) [RE-ADVERTISEMENT]
Section: Regional Quality Management
Sub-Section: Quality Management: Pretoria
Component: Quality Management
Location of the post: Pretoria: (1 Post) (Ref FS 632/2015)

28. Post Title: Forensic Analyst (Warrant Officer)
Section: Regional Quality Management
Sub-Section: Quality Management: Pretoria
Component: Quality Management
Location of the post: Pretoria: (1 Post) (Ref FS 633/2015)

29. Post Title: Forensic Analyst (Warrant Officer)
Sub Section: DNA Analysis
Section: Biology
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Plattekloof: Western Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 634/2015)

30. Post Title: Constable
Sub Section: Crime Scene Investigation: Local Criminal Record Centre
Component: Criminal Record & Crime Scene Management
Location of the post:

  • Brits: North West (1 Post) (Ref FS 635/2015)
  • Mount Road: Eastern Cape (2 Posts) (Ref FS 636/2015)
  • Cradock: Eastern Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 637/2015)
  • Mokopane: Limpopo (1 Post) (Ref FS 638/2015)
  • Groblersdal: Limpopo (1 Post) (Ref FS 639/2015)
  • Musina: Limpopo (1 Post) (Ref FS 640/2015)
  • Phalaborwa: Limpopo (1 Post) (Ref FS 641/2015)
  • Thabazimbi: Limpopo (1 Post) (Ref FS 642/2015)
  • Lebowakgomo: Limpopo (1 Post) (Ref FS 643/2015)
  • Worcester: Western Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 644/2015)
  • Paarl: Western Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 645/2015)
  • Cape Town: Western Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 646/2015)
  • Bellville: Western Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 647/2015)
  • Kimberley: Northern Cape (1 Post) (Ref FS 648/2015)
  • Vryburg: North West (1 Post) (Ref FS 649/2015)
  • Potchefstroom: North West (1 Post) (Ref FS 650/2015)
  • Port Shepstone: Kwazulu-Natal (1 Post) (Ref FS 651/2015)
  • Durban Central: Kwazulu-Natal (1 Post) (Ref FS 652/2015)

31. Post Title: Constable
Sub Section: Archives: Source Documents
Section: Criminalistic Bureau
Component: Criminal Record & Crime Scene Management
Location of the post: National Office: Pretoria: (5 Posts) (Ref FS 653/2015)

32. Post Title: Constable
Sub Section: Precious Metal Analysis
Section: Scientific Analysis
Component: Forensic Science Laboratory
Location of the post: Pretoria (1 Post) (Ref FS 654/2015)

33. Post Title: Constable
Section: Local Criminal Record Centre
Component: Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management
Location of the post: Witbank: Mpumalanga (6 Posts) (Ref FS 655/2015)

34. Post Title: Constable
Section: Lead Investigation: DNA Database Management
Component: Quality Management
Location of the post: Pretoria (1 Post) (Ref FS 656/2015)

GENERAL:

  • Only the official application form (available on the SAPS website and at SAPS recruitment offices) will be accepted. The Z83 previously utilized will no longer be accepted. All instructions on the application form must be adhered to and all previous/pending criminal/disciplinary convictions must be declared. Failure to do so may result in the rejection of the application.
  • The post particulars and reference number of the post must be correctly specified on the application form. A separate application form must be completed for each post.
  • A comprehensive Curriculum Vitae must be submitted together with the application form.
  • Certified copies (certification preferably by Police Officers) of an applicant’s ID document, motor vehicle driver’s license (Police Act appointments), Senior Certificate and all educational qualifications obtained together with the academic record (statement of results) thereof and service certificates of previous employers stating the occupation and the period, must also be submitted and attached to every application. The copies must be correctly certified on the copy itself, not at the back. The certification must not be older than three months. All qualifications and driver’s licenses submitted will be subjected to verification checking with the relevant institutions.
  • CANDIDATES ARE REQUESTED TO INITIAL EACH AND EVERY PAGE OF THE APPLICATION FORM, CV AND ALL ANNEXURES.
  • The closing date for the applications is 2015-07-10. Applications must be mailed timeously. Late applications will not be accepted or considered.
  • Appointments will be made in terms of the SAPS Act or Public Service Act as applicable to the post environment.
  • If a candidate is short-listed, it can be expected of him/her to undergo a personal interview.
  • Successful applicants to be appointed in terms of the South African Police Service Act, 1995 (Act no 68 of 1995) and applicants not yet appointed in terms of the South African Police Service Act, 1995 (Act no 68 of 1995) will have to undergo a medical examination and found to be medically fit. They will further have to comply with the prescripts on the SAPS Dress Order, whereby tattoos may not be visible when wearing uniform, must be willing to undergo the prescribed Introductory Police Development Learning Programme and are expected to work flexi hours or shifts in the execution of their duties.
  • The Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act, Act 37 of 2013 requires that all new recruits (appointments) in the South African Police Service as from 31st of January 2015 provide a buccal sample in order to determine their forensic DNA profile. The forensic DNA profile derived from the sample will be loaded to the National Forensic DNA Database.
  • Short-listed candidates for appointment to certain identified posts, will be vetted in terms of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007 (Act No 32 of 2007) and the Children’s Act, 2005 (Act No 38 of 2005). A candidate, whose particulars appear in either the National Register for Sex Offenders or Part B of the Child Protection Register, will be disqualified from appointment to that post.
  • All short-listed candidates will be subjected to fingerprint screening. Candidates will be subjected to a vetting process which will include security screening and fingerprint verification.
  • Correspondence will be conducted with successful candidates only. If you have not been contacted within three (3) months after the closing date of this advertisement, please accept that your application was unsuccessful.
  • The South African Police Service is under no obligation to fill a post after the advertisement thereof.
  • The South African Police Service is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer and it is the intention to promote representivity in the Public Service through the filling of these posts. Persons whose transfer/appointment/promotion will promote representivity will therefore receive preference.

Applications and enquiries can be directed to:
Lt Colonel Klopper / Lt Moonsamy
Tel: (012) 421-0194
Tel: (012) 421-0584

Postal Address:
Private Bag X 322
PRETORIA
0001

Hand Delivery:
Cnr Beckett and Pretorius Street
Strelitzia Building
Arcadia

Specialist police sniffer dogs lead to 215 arrests

June 29th, 2015

As long as crime has been fought, dogs have been used in the battle to keep lawlessness at bay. But mention a police dog and thoughts inevitably turn to that of a dog with its teeth bared, chasing down a criminal or keeping angry protesters at bay during riot control.

However, there is an elite group of 30 dogs in South Africa that never bare their teeth, and are usually friendly Border Collies or Labradors.

These are the dogs known as the biological, body fluid detection canines. They are specialised in detecting blood and semen. It is this ability that helps detectives solve crimes or gather vital evidence, especially in murder and rape cases.

National police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said in the year ended March 2015, these specialist canines were involved in almost 2 300 searches with 706 samples of blood or semen found and 215 suspects arrested.

There is one such dog at the Umzinto Dog Unit on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast. Paris loves nothing more than to chase down a tennis ball and bring it back to her handler, Warrant Officer Jason Reddy. However, the moment he puts her harness on, it is time to work seeking out blood or semen that is not readily visible.

K9 unit

What kind of dog is recruited to help the detectives?

“It has to be a dog with a friendly disposition. It also needs to be a dog that can get into small areas,” says Reddy, a 20-year veteran of the police. At least 18 of those years have been with the police dogs, or the K9 unit, as it is more commonly known.

Border Collies, Labradors and on occasion German Shepherd dogs are used. Paris is a black and white Border Collie with a little more than five years of service and, according to Reddy, has been the crucial link in a number of cases that have resulted in convictions.

In one case in which two girls were raped in Hibberdene on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast, Paris found a drop of blood that was not seen by the naked eye. The sample was taken and tested. The DNA from that small drop matched the DNA of a suspect already on the police’s database.

“That suspect had a previous conviction and we had his DNA on our database. He got 25 years,” said Reddy.

Paris has been trained to differentiate between human and animal samples. She can smell a pinprick-size sample of blood that is not visible to the human eye and can smell blood even if it has been washed away.

In a case where three people were killed in a hit-and-run accident, it was Paris’s sharp smelling ability that picked up the trace of blood inside a hole that would normally contain a screw holding the mud flap of the car that clinched the case. The driver, whom police suspected, had washed the car. The blood found by Paris was tested and found to belong to one of the three dead girls. Her sharp nose saw to it that the driver was convicted of culpable homicide.

Training

The dogs like Paris are picked once they are at least 14 months old and then undergo training at the police’s K9 Dog Training Academy in Roodeplaat in Pretoria.

Captain Cliffie Pillay, who is responsible for the police’s canines in KwaZulu-Natal, said the handlers of biological, body fluid detection canines must have had at least two years of experience as a dog handler.

Reddy was previously the handler of a dog trained to seek out explosives. And before he was teamed up with Paris, he too had to undergo training.

Reddy and Paris get called out once a day by detectives for murder cases or by the Family, Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit for rape cases.

In fact it was such a dog that was called out to help police last week in the hunt for two men who are alleged to have raped an American tourist in the Tsitsikamma National Park.

In one case where a couple was arrested for stabbing Umzinto grandmother Sushila Pillay, Paris located the alleged murder weapon – a knife – in the Umzinto River a week after the murder.

In Durban’s western suburb of Malvern, police had caught the suspect who had told them where he had thrown the knife used to stab a man. Officers could not find it in the open patch of land, but Paris found it still with the victim’s blood on it. While not necessary for the conviction, it solidified the case the police had against the man.

99% success rate

A quiet “Soek” from Reddy sends Paris looking for blood or semen, depending on what is required. When she finds it, she sits down at the spot. And that is when the forensics experts move in to confirm her good work and extract samples required for DNA testing.

In another case a woman who was raped repeatedly in a forest in Dududu near Umzinto was so distraught that she could not recall where in the forest the crime had occurred.

Reddy and Paris were called in and five different crime scenes in the forest were located by Paris.

Paris is expected to work for another five years at least, but even she is tested annually by Pillay to ensure that she is up to scratch.

According to Pillay, Paris will find that sample of blood or semen more than 99% of the time.

There are currently only two biological, body fluid detection canines working in KwaZulu-Natal, but according to Pillay there are plans to bring more of dogs like Paris to KwaZulu-Natal, so criminals beware.

This article was first published by News24.com on 21 June 2015

Criminal Justice System (CJS) Modernisation: follow-up meeting with SAPS and its stakeholders

June 19th, 2015

Last week (10 June) the Portfolio Committee on Police met with a number of key stakeholders to follow up on issues relating to the modernisation of the Criminal Justice System (CJS) of the South African Police Service (SAPS).

The Committee previously met with SAPS on 13 May 2015 where it was briefed on its CJS, Integrated Justice System (IJS) and Technology Management System (TMS) projects.

At this meeting, it came to the fore that there were certain challenges experienced in terms of the execution of some of the projects with some of the role-players. There were currently 73 technology projects run by SAPS of which 15 were linked to other departments.

This follow-up meeting afforded the Committee the opportunity to meet with the relevant stakeholders, e.g. SITA, Department of Public Works (DPW) and Department of Home Affairs (DHA), to get a full picture of the issues at hand.

During the meeting the Committee heard a presentation by SITA (State Information Technology Agency) where the role of SITA, status, time and outstanding matters on a number of projects were discussed – which included:

  • National Forensic DNA Database (NFDD): SITA appointed a team to assist the SAPS in the implementation of the NFDD (CODIS) solution. The team had started the preparation of the environment from where the system will operate.
  • LABWARE: A software solution procured by SAPS directly, which managed workflow of all specimen in the forensic LAB
  • Forensic Science Laboratory Administration System: Administration system behind the forensic science laboratory

Following SITA’s presentation, Vanessa, as Deputy Chair of the National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board, asked SITA if the decision had been made to implement CODIS and when it was anticipated this would take place.

In response, Lt. Gen. JK Phalane, SAPS Divisional Commissioner: Forensic Services, replied saying that SAPS had since opted to have a security assessment on CODIS in collaboration with the State Security Agency. Once there was an outcome of the assessment, SAPS would then provide an internal instruction.

She also questioned the blockages created through the chemistries employed and that there seemed to be a procurement issue with the new DNA kits being used. The integrity of the database rested on the data being inputted and she was concerned about compromising this integrity.

To view the full meeting minutes, please click here.

What is Forensic Photography?

June 9th, 2015

Put simply, forensic photography (also known as forensic imaging or crime scene photography) relates to photography that is undertaken within a legal context, for example; providing an accurate visual record of an accident or crime scene.

In the process of aiding an investigation and/or legal proceedings in court, forensic photographers are called upon to photograph a wide range of subjects.

These include:

  • Crime Scenes
  • Gunshot Wounds
  • Bitemarks
  • Weapons
  • Trace Evidence
  • Autopsy Procedures

Less obvious but equally important photographic protocols include taking pictures of mail and newspapers to help establish date of death and photographs taken from the perspective of witnesses at the time of the crime etc.

The following short documentary by David Beazley takes a fascinating look at Forensic Photography through the eyes of Nick Marsh – a forensic photographer of over 20 years.

SOURCES:

Forensic Photographyhttp://www.all-about-forensic-science.com/forensic_photography.html

The Forensic Photographerhttps://vimeo.com/120053370

SAPS report on CJS modernisation, ICDMS and DNA Act implementation

May 29th, 2015

On the 13th of May 2015 the Portfolio Committee on Police was briefed in the National Assembly by the SAPS on the quarterly reports on the implementation of the: Criminal Justice System (CJS) Modernisation; Integrated Case Docket Management System (ICDMS); and the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act, 2013 (DNA Act).

Please find below a brief summary of the meeting and to view the full meeting minutes, please click here.

Meeting Summary:

The Committee met with SAPS senior management, including the National Commissioner, to be briefed on the progress of various SAPS technology services including the modernisation for the Criminal Justice System (CJS), the Integrated Case Docket Management System (ICDMS), the Integrated Justice System (IJS), Forensic Science Laboratory Division (FSL) as well as a briefing on the status of implementation of the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act, otherwise known as the DNA Act of 2013.

The Committee Researcher first provided a background on the systems and projects, monitoring and oversight of them, and the 2014/15 budget and expenditure for them.

The Committee was briefed by SAPS on the Criminal Justice System (CJS) where attention was paid to the planned quarterly budget allocation vs. actual expenditure for 2014/15 and the status of milestone deliverables achieved. The specific projects discussed covered: capacitation and modernisation of criminal record centre component, automated fingerprint ID replacement and maintenance, replacement of stolen equipment at provincial level record centres in Springs and Vryburg, provision of end user equipment for newly appointed criminal record centre members, audio visual and video conferencing, electronic plan drawing, facial compilation and the maintenance of biometric enhancement solutions. Other projects included additional devices for enhancement and presentation of digital latent prints, additional devices for panoramic image capturing cameras, integration with the HANIS system of Home Affairs, decentralisation of JUDDIS (Judicial Document Image Storage System), reprioritised criminal record centre projects for 2014/15, capacitation and modernisation of forensic science laboratories, ballistic interface unit capabilities and closed circuit TV and access control. Also included in the presentation was end user equipment for forensic science labs, bar code printers for Cape Town and Arcadia, scanners for police stations for implementation of the DNA Act, procurement of iPads, high resolution cameras for scientific unit analysis, X-Ray devices, semi-automated DNA isolation instruments in the DNA crime lane, scientific data management system upgrades and expert system and expert system assistance systems. Further projects outlined was radio frequency identification, mobile cyanoacrylate fuming system, tyre tread mark ID system, capacitation and modernisation of provincial, cluster, police stations and national division, end user equipment deployment and configuration, capacitation and modernisation of detective services, voice recorded, expansion of digital extraction devices, capacitation and modernisation of Visible Policing, mobile connectivity devices (field terminal devices) expansion and maintenance, capacitation and modernisation of protection and security services and video wall nerve centre (war room) maintenance.

Members noted the pattern of vital and instrumental projects stalling halfway because of other processes and questioned the effect of this on SAPS functions such as convictions and arrests. Questions included the sequence of operations in terms of funding, capacity problems in the sector, integration of databases across ministries in terms of the SAPS Act, how milestones achieved were determined, capacitation of detectives in terms of e-dockets, communication between SAPS and State Information Technology Agency (SITA) and if the challenges of the SAPS anti-rhino poaching unit in the Kruger National Park had been taken into consideration. Other Members thought while all the information was useful, there needed to be a frank discussion, with all the other relevant stakeholders who seemed to be dragging their feet, on what the real problems were, where the blockages were inhibiting progress on these projects, and the need to look at the percentage of projects satisfactorily completed to assess the results of the funds. There were requests for updates on TETRA (digital police radio system), Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and the video wall nerve centre. Other issues raised were about the needed links with court systems for seamless operability, improvement on the matter of very expensive equipment in the Pretoria forensic lab not being used or dismantled, and the readiness of SAPS to implement the DNA Act in terms of capacity and equipment.

SAPS provided a progress report on the implementation of the DNA Act. An overview of the Act and its objectives was given, along with DNA collection and processing, functions of the DNA Board and detail on the key focus areas of the Act.

The next SAPS presentation was on the expenditure for the IJS projects for 2014/15 along with financial achievements and milestones delivered for these projects. These projects included the Property Control and Exhibit Management (PCEM), detention management systems, identity and access management, national photo image systems, facial recognition systems, disaster victim identification, ICDMS case administration, action request for services, service integration bus, SAPS service orientated architecture advancement and field terminal devices front and back end development.

The Committee decided it was best to continue a thorough discussion on this particular topic on 10 June along with other relevant stakeholders with the intention of identifying which areas needed to be unblocked for progress to be made.

Thousands of detectives now trained to handle DNA

May 14th, 2015

SAPS demonstrating the taking of a buccal swab at the 3rd National Forensic Services Conference held in 2015.

JOHANNESBURG – Members of Parliament have heard thousands of detectives have already been trained to take the forensic samples [buccal swabs] that will go towards building a national DNA database.

Lieutenant General Kgomotso Phahlane has briefed Parliament’s Police Portfolio Committee on the implementation of the so-called DNA Act that came into operation in January.

“Our target was to make sure that 5,500 people were trained by the end of March and 5,456 have been trained.”

The Criminal Law Amendment Act provides for a DNA database that will help identify the perpetrators of unsolved crimes, prove the innocence or guilt of accused persons and help find missing people.

(Edited by Refilwe Pitjeng)

SOURCE: This article was first published by Eyewitness News on 12 May 2015

Crime scene discovery – separating the DNA of identical twins

May 11th, 2015

Forensic scientist Dr Graham Williams uncovers one of the DNA’s longstanding mysteries

SINCE its first use in the 1980s – a breakthrough dramatised in recent [UK] ITV series Code of a Killer – DNA profiling has been a vital tool for forensic investigators.  Now researchers at the University of Huddersfield have solved one of its few limitations by successfully testing a technique for distinguishing between the DNA – or genetic fingerprint – of identical twins.

The probability of a DNA match between two unrelated individuals is about one in a billion.  For two full siblings, the probability drops to one-in-10,000.  But identical twins present exactly the same DNA profile as each other and this has created legal conundrums when it was not possible to tell which of the pair was guilty or innocent of a crime.  This has led to prosecutions being dropped, rather than run the risk of convicting the wrong twin.

Now Dr Graham Williams and his Forensic Genetics Research Group at the University of Huddersfield have developed a solution to the problem and published their findings in the journal Analytical Biochemistry.

Previous methods have been proposed for distinguishing the DNA of twins.  One is termed “mutation analysis”, where the whole genome of both twins is sequenced to identify mutations that might have occurred to one of them.

“If such a mutation is identified at a particular location in the twin, then that same particular mutation can be specifically searched for in the crime scene sample.  However, this is very expensive and time-consuming and is unlikely to be paid for by cash-strapped police forces,” according to Dr Williams, who has shown that a cheaper, quicker technique is available.

Dr Graham Williams

It is based on the concept of DNA methylation, which is effectively the molecular mechanism that turns various genes on and off.

As twins get older, the degree of difference between them grows as they are subjected to increasingly different environments.  For example, one might take up smoking, or one might have a job outdoors and the other a desk job.  This will cause changes in the methylation status of the DNA.

In order to carry our speedy, inexpensive analysis of this, Dr Williams and his team propose a technique named “high resolution melt curve analysis” (HRMA).

“What HRMA does is to subject the DNA to increasingly high temperatures until the hydrogen bonds break, known as the melting temperature.  The more hydrogen bonds that are present in the DNA, the higher the temperature required to melt them,” explains Dr Williams.

“Consequently, if one DNA sequence is more methylated than the other, then the melting temperatures of the two samples will differ – a difference that can be measured, and which will establish the difference between two identical twins.”

Pictured (left to right) are Dr Williams's students Dieudonné van der Meer, Leander Stewart, Neil Evans and Kimberley Bexon.

HRMA has some limitations, acknowledges Dr Williams.  For example young twins, or twins raised in highly similar environments may not have yet developed sufficient methylation differences.

Also the technique requires a high sample quantity that might not be present at the crime scene.

“Nevertheless, we have demonstrated substantial progress towards a relatively cheap and quick test for differentiating between identical twins in forensic case work,” says Dr Williams, who gives a detailed summary of the science behind the breakthrough at blog-site The Conversation.

SOURCE: This article was first published online by the University of Huddersfield on 20 April 2015.

Infographic: What are DNA profiles used for?

May 4th, 2015

Thanks to SciBraai and Anina Mumm for sharing this infographic with us.

DNA profiling has revolutionised criminal justice globally and in South Africa. The graphic below was created in 2012, to accompany a feature on the potential promise and pitfalls of a DNA database as set out in the then ‘DNA Bill’.

SOURCE: http://scibraai.co.za/infographic-what-are-dna-profiles-used-for/

Excavating a grave site: Anthropological or forensic crime scene?

April 24th, 2015

A skeleton appearing in a grave.

Following the recent discovery of mass graves on Glenroy farm in Dududu (KZN) some months ago, the question arose as to whether the scene should be handled as a forensic (crime scene) or anthropological/archaeological case.

While a commission of inquiry has been established, it is being treated as forensic case in the first instance until otherwise determined and as such currently falls under the jurisdiction of the SAPS forensics unit while they conduct their preliminary investigations.

But what exactly is the difference between a forensic and an anthropological/archaeological case when investigating human remains?

In a forensic case the responsibility for the investigation of deaths due to unnatural causes lies with the Forensic Pathology Service in the province where the incident occurred and under the Inquests Act (Act 58 of 1959), this Service makes provision for the rendering of medico-legal investigation of the cause of death and serves the judicial process.

Up until 2006 this function was performed by, and fell under, the SAPS. As stipulated by the National Health Act (Act 61 of 2003), the operational management of the medico-legal laboratory facilities was subsequently transferred to the different provincial Departments of Health.

In an anthropological case, jurisdiction over inadvertently discovered human remains is governed by the National Heritage Resources Act (Act 25 of 1999) which stipulates that all discoveries of human remains should be reported to the local SAPS and the relevant Heritage Resources Agency.

Human remains identified by the Act, or proclaimed by the minister of Arts and Culture, should be reported to the South African Heritage Resources Agency Burial Grounds and Graves Unit. Jurisdiction, that is, whether the remains are forensic in nature or of heritage value, and whether the cause of death was non-natural and judicially relevant, is then assigned after consultation between officials.

As a general rule, although specified exceptions to this are indicated in the National Heritage Resources Act, human remains older than 60 years are not forensic, and remains older than 100 years are considered to be archaeological.

The National Heritage Resources Act also identifies categories of human remains, such as Victims of Conflict (referring to victims of the pre-1994 political violence in South Africa), which are classified as human rights abuses and deserving of special investigation and commemoration.

What is forensic anthropology?

Forensic anthropology is a specialist field that deals with the evidence that can be collected from human remains – both hard tissue in the form of dry bones and soft tissue in the form of dried flesh from dried up or mummified bodies.

A forensic anthropologist has detailed knowledge of anatomy, particularly the anatomy of the human skeleton, since the bones are usually all that remains when a forensic anthropologist is called in to identify a body.

What is a forensic anthropologist able to discern in respect of discovered remains that will aid the investigation?

Forensic anthropologists are able to reconstruct information surrounding the events that lead to the preservation of the discovered remains and call this the study of ‘taphonomy’, which includes the evidence of death, and the accumulation and preservation of bones over time.

Forensic anthropologists speak of four taphonomic periods in relation to a dead individual:

  • the ante-mortem period, which covers the whole of the time before the death of the person
  • the peri-mortem period, which is around the time of death
  • the post-mortem period which includes the time between death and discovery
  • the post-recovery period which includes the process of recovery, analysis and storage of the bony evidence.

Each period provides different contexts for enquiry. During the ante-mortem period (before death), the skeleton is living and records its own details of growth and development.

These can be used to develop a biological profile of the individual and help in securing identification.

The peri-mortem period is obviously important because it includes the events around the death and the cause of death.

However, the post-mortem period is important as well because it gives the time context of the crime by revealing information about the post-mortem interval (PMI). Each and every event after the discovery needs to be recorded as part of the ‘chain of custody’ so that there are no questions about the data when the case is discussed in court.

How can forensic anthropologists estimate sex and age?

By examining the skeletal remains, an anthropologist can estimate whether they are from a male or female.

A skeleton’s overall size and sturdiness give some clues. Within the same population, males tend to have larger, more robust bones and joint surfaces, and more bone development at muscle attachment sites.

Pelvic differences between males and females.

However, the pelvis is the best sex-related skeletal indicator, because of distinct features adapted for childbearing.

The skull also has features that can indicate sex, though slightly less reliably.

Male skull

Female skull

Determining how old a person was when they died is much more difficult than estimating their sex. The estimation of age at death involves observing morphological changes (changes in structure) in the skeletal remains and comparing it to what is known about chronological changes (changes that happen as we get older) that occur in the skeleton.

SOURCES

Friedling, J. (2012). What the bones can tell us. QUEST, 8(2). Academy of Science for South Africa.

Groen,W.J.M.,  Márquez-Grant, N., Janaway, R. (2015). Forensic Archaeology: A Global Perspective. Wiley-Blackwell.

Morris, A. (2012). What is forensic anthropology? QUEST, 8(2). Academy of Science for South Africa.

Dust Samples Traced Using Fungal DNA

April 20th, 2015

Researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of Colorado, Boulder, have developed a statistical model that allows them to tell where a dust sample came from within the continental United States based on the DNA of fungi found in the sample.

Using the fungi observed in a dust sample collected in Raleigh, NC (blue point), the model predicts that the sample is most likely to have originated near Columbia, SC (red point). The error in this prediction, 138.7 miles, is close to the algorithm's median prediction error. Beyond a single "pin-in-a-map" prediction, the shaded regions capture areas of the U.S. for which the sample is likely to have originated with 90%, 75%, and 50% probability.

The primary goal of the research was to develop a new forensic biology tool for law enforcement or archeologists. “But it may also give us a greater understanding of the invisible ecosystems of microbial life that we know are all around us, but that we don’t fully comprehend,” says Neal Grantham, a Ph.D. student in statistics at NC State and lead author of a paper on the work.

The researchers developed the model using data from the Wild Life of Our Homes citizen science project conducted by the Your Wild Life lab based at NC State. The project collected dust samples from approximately 1,000 homes across the continental U.S., including samples from 47 of the 48 contiguous states.

The goal of that project was to test the dust samples for DNA to identify the microbial species present in and around our homes. One of the things the project found was that the types of fungus — or fungal taxa — varied widely from region to region.

“Based on that finding, we wanted to determine if you could predict where a dust sample came from based on the fungi present in the sample, and — most of the time — we can,” Grantham says.

The researchers developed a model that analyzed the fungal taxa present in a dust sample and predicted where the sample came from. About five percent of the time, the model’s predictions were within 35 miles of the correct sampling site. Those were the most accurate predictions. The worst five percent were off by at least 645 miles. The model’s median prediction error was 143 miles. However, the research team is already working to make the model more accurate by developing more advanced algorithms.

“The work we’ve done so far was to determine whether this concept was viable,” Grantham says. “Now that we know it is viable, we’re developing statistical methods that are better suited to the problem.

“Ultimately, we want to have an online tool for law enforcement to run the results of dust samples taken from a piece of clothing, a body, or a vehicle, and get information on where the clothing, body, or vehicle has been,” Grantham says.

SOURCE: Forensic Magazine – 16 April 2015