Minutes from June 21, 2016 Open Board Meeting-Sheriff McMahon & New Crime Lab

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Open Board of Directors Meeting

 San Bernardino Community College District
114 S. Del Rosa Drive
San Bernardino, CA 92408



Present: Carole Beswick, Deborah Barmack, Peter Barmack, Mike Burrows, Ken Coate, Dick Hart, Scott Hofferber, Mark Kaenel, Bill Lemann, John Mirau, Steve PonTell, Kristine Scott, and Ray Wolfe.

Guests: Lt. Eddie Stark

Announcements: 1) The ribbon cutting for the San Manual Gateway College SAC Health System will be held tomorrow, June 22, 2016 at 250 South G St., San Bernardino beginning at 11:30a.m. 2) Inland Action will join the coalition with BizFed to oppose SB 1387 and protect local control of the South Coast Air Quality Management District Board. 3) A ground breaking event will be held for the new Waterman Gardens project on Wednesday, June 28, 2016. 4) A majority of the members present voted to extend an invitation of membership to Alta Pacific Bank.

M/S/P: Minutes from June 14, 2016.

Ray Wolfe introduced Sheriff John McMahon, County of San Bernardino. Sheriff McMahon introduced Deputy Chief Steve Kovensky and Steve Johnson, Crime Lab Director.

Located at 771 East Rialto Avenue, behind the Registrar of Voters office, the new Crime Lab had their grand opening in April. The $17 million facility has new equipment, more room and more capability to investigate and solve crimes. The facility houses the Forensic, Alcohol, Controlled Substances, Firearms/Toolmarks and Crime Scene Investigation Units.  Equipping the new building had its challenges and delays but it is now up and running strong.  Much of the credit to see the crime lab to completion goes to the Board of Supervisors and Greg Devereaux, County CEO.

The role of the forensic scientist is to analyze evidence from a crime, prepare reports describing their results, and if necessary, provide testimony in court. Mr. Johnson indicated that half of a forensic scientist’s time is spent interpreting the data.   Results from the San Bernardino lab are well respected by courts and law enforcement, so actual testimony requested from forensics is minimized.  The facility has relocated since its beginnings (1957) band now is in a county owned property, saving money from the previously leased facilities.  They have renewed their accreditation (a 4 yr. term) from federally recognized American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD) which gives them eligibility for federal grants and allows them to access Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), the FBI’s system of criminal justice DNA databases and software.


The busy lab is used by all police agencies in the county and processes:

  • Alcohol Analysis (16,000 / year)
  • Controlled Substances Testing (10,000 / year)
  • Firearms Analysis (250 / year)
  • Forensic Biology (600 / year)
  • Trace Evidence Analysis (100 / year)
  • Crime Scene Investigation (100 – 200 year)
  • Fingerprint Analysis

They are equipped with breath alcohol testing both in fixed instruments and a limited number of portable units. Portable units are critical and more are needed as the county has many remote mountain, desert and recreational water areas where it is much more efficient to do on-site testing. All blood alcohol testing is done with gas chromatography at the lab.

Lab Director Steve Johnson discussed the facility’s Controlled Substance testing which includes color screening tests, microcrystal tests, thin layer chromatography (a technique that is useful for separating organic compounds) and instrumental analysis. Firearms analyses use bullet comparison, cartridge case comparison, function tests, general rifling specifications and coordination with National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN).  The forensic area conducts stain preservation, extraction, quantitation, amplification, and data interpretation.  Forensic information is entered into the CODIS system.  The two climate controlled vehicle bays provide a controlled environment for vehicle examination and evidence collection.  Additionally, the lab works on trace evidence such as gunshot residue (GSR), impression evidence (like tire and shoe prints) and identification of arson accelerants.

San Bernardino County has two detectives pursuing cold cases. Recent reports of rape kits and DNA samples not being processed or back log are unfounded in San Bernardino County.   DNA commonly takes seven days to process, and all viable cases are pursued.  However, current cases take priority.

Future plans include a much needed remodeling of the main building. Planned for early 2017, they will add critically needed space for the Forensic Biology and Trace Evidence Units.

A Q & A period followed.

Meeting adjourned at 8:30 a.m.