103rd Public Affairs Detachment
Story by Staff Sgt. Daniel Yarnall
04.04.2010 - A green argon-ion laser is the only light in a corner of an otherwise pitch black room as Michael Palermo, a forensic scientist, examines latent finger prints on an energy drink can. It is through latent fingerprint analysis that the Joint Expeditionary Forensic Facility, 22nd Military Police Battalion (Criminal Investigative Division) collects evidence to bring to prosecution.
In addition to their crime-solving mission, the professionals at the JEFF lab also work with the Iraqi police and Iraqi army, training them on properly collecting fingerprints and other forensic evidence for use in solving crimes and prosecution, according to Staff Sgt. Cedric Sherrod, noncommissioned officer in charge of the JEFF lab.
Ten forensic experts work at the JEFF lab, which is the center for DNA, firearm and fingerprint evidence collection at Camp Victory.
Palermo, who has more than 34 years in law enforcement, is a certified latent print examiner. He is using his experience and knowledge to aid in the partnership with the Iraqi army and police.
Palermo works one-on-one work with the Iraqis; training them on fingerprint collection and analysis and working side by side his Iraqi counterparts as they process evidence.
"We have Iraqi experts who come here to participate and train with us in the process of collecting latent print evidence," Palermo said. "We are able to direct them and help them in new techniques.
Forensic science is relatively new to the Iraqi justice system, which used to rely entirely on witness testimonies during its trials, Sherrod said. With the knowledge that has been transferred in this partnership, Iraqi law enforcement officials are now able to stay one step ahead of the criminals in their country.
"The criminals don't know to wear gloves, so their finger and palm prints are all over the evidence," he said. "This makes it that much easier for law enforcement to collect prints."
Through the guidance of Sherrod, Palermo and the other JEFF lab members, the Iraqi army and police better understand how to collect latent fingerprints and the importance of properly handling evidence to keep it from getting contaminated.
"Our goals are to better the partnership we have with our Iraqi counterparts and make sure that they understand forensics is here to help solve cases," Sherrod said.