Modernizing Albanian Institute of the Scientific Police
September 19, 2022
Walking down the memory lane…
When I was little, I loved watching movies involving crime scenes. I was totally "taken" by how crime scene investigations were carried out. How do they do that? How do they determine who committed the crime? I could see myself analyzing crime scenes, finding, and collecting scientific evidence, and presenting it in legal courts.
I promised myself then that I would one day become a forensic scientist who would always seek justice.
Dreams do not always come true. I never became a forensic scientist. Instead, I became a communicator, who, among other things, must communicate the organization's work to the public.
And on this note, I visited the Albanian Scientific Police.
Back to the present
As if to remind me of my never-fulfilled dream to become a forensic scientist, in 2019, in partnership with the Ministry of Interior, the Albanian State Police, and the Albanian Institute of Scientific Police, UNDP kicked off a project: "Support Albania's Law Enforcement Authorities to Strengthen Firearms Criminality Evidence Management and Investigation Capacities." Funded by the Government of Germany and implemented in partnership with the Southeastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SEESAC), the project aims to modernize the Albanian Institute of Scientific Police with the aim of improving the quality of investigation and enabling a fairer justice system in Albania.
One of the project's pillars aims to improve the Albanian State Police's ability to operate with higher standards and more effective procedures in the field of criminal investigation. The development of standard operating procedures for crime scene investigation and the provision of key equipment for CSI and ballistic analysis for the Albanian Institute of Scientific Police, were some of the tangible interventions. This support would also play an instrumental role in the accreditation process of the Albanian Institute of the Scientific Police.
I paid a visit to the Institute to see the work of the Scientific Police—this specialized structure for conducting expertise for criminal investigations—and to get a panorama of how UNDP assistance is helping strengthen criminal investigation as well as the ballistic analysis capacities of the Albanian Police forensic sector. I had always wanted to visit one of these labs, where a combination of expertise, technology, and tools help provide accurate and solid expertise to the investigations.
Rarely have I been so impressed by the passion, commitment, know-how, and expertise possessed by the police officers in that old building, which holds truths told and untold yet. Everybody had a story to share, a story about work which makes a difference. A story of commitment driven by the will to help deliver justice.
During the visit to the Albanian Scientific Police
How did UNDP help?
Responding to the need to strengthen the technical and human capacities of the Scientific Police to assist in the investigation, UNDP purchased a series of specialized equipment for the ballistic sector, CSI teams, and DNA sector and provided capacity building sessions for the police officers.
With the aim of improving the processing of evidence and the chain of custody from the crime scene, a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) was made available to the Albanian Institute of Scientific Police and the regional CSI units. Forty-five Albanian State Police officers from the Albanian Institute of Scientific Police were trained how to use the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). The training provided them with the knowledge they needed to process evidence in accordance with internationally recognized standards.
Fatjon Kaluci, Chief of Evidence Administration Sector, speaks of the benefits of the system, which range from greater efficiency to accuracy and integration. "This system is instrumental to documenting every movement of evidence from receipt to disposal. It has reduced the paperwork significantly, tracks the location of each sample and its movement as part of the chain of custody, and provides accurate statistics."
UNDP also procured the comparison macroscope and trinocular microscopes—very useful tools to accurately examine the results of the ballistic evidence. Moreover, five Albanian police officers from the ballistic sector of the Scientific Police were trained to use the new equipment.
"The training was extremely beneficial in strengthening the police officers' abilities to process ballistic evidence. This is done in line with international standards," says Fatjon.
A ballistic water tank for ballistic analysis was also made available in the context of the project, which included a capacity building session with police officers in charge on how to use the newly available equipment.
"The Ballistic Water Tank is an efficient bullet recovery system for obtaining undamaged bullets for direct comparison of rifling marks. I am very grateful for the support provided because this equipment and the following training are helping enhance the processing of ballistic evidence as per the highest international standards," says Nikolin Duraj, a specialist at the Ballistic Sector.
"The project interventions have helped process evidence. Because of the incomplete human and technological capacity of the Scientific Police, several investigations continued for a long time, and, in some cases, the procedural deadlines were exceeded, which entailed the termination of criminal proceedings,"- says Aleksander Bushati, working as Specialist at the DNA Sector.
The project provided equipment that enhanced the capabilities of processing DNA evidence, including a bone grinder for DNA extraction and a thermal cycler PCR reader machine.
With the new equipment, it is now possible for forensic scientists to solve crimes that have remained unsolved for years.
I talked to UNDP Resident Representative, Monica Merino, who among others said: "UNDP highly appreciates the work of those invisible heroes and heroines who work day in and day out to give fair justice in Albania."
- Installation of a ballistic analysis water tank on the premises of the Albanian Institute of Scientific Police
- Procurement of three 3D scanners for crime scene examination
- Procurement of IT equipment for regional CSI Units
- Development and adoption of a Lab Information Management System (LIMS) for the Albanian Institute of Scientific Police
I left the institute with regret that my dream was never realized but was happy to see that UNDP’ support was bearing fruit. The project is helping give fair justice for victims and their families.
Fair, efficient, humane, and accountable justice systems provide a cornerstone in a society based on human rights and the rule of law.