Pohnpei, FSM - A select group of Pohnpei State Police Officers gathered for a seminar on forensics, the sixth in a series, during the week of March 12. The seminar and trainings are centered on two similar purposes, to give Police Officers better tools to solve crimes, and to give would be criminals something to think about before they commit a crime.
Sometimes police departments don't need a lot of forensic experience to solve a crime. For instance, during the week of the 26th of March would be thieves made it easy for police. They allegedly broke into the Senny's warehouse and stole approximately 1/5 of the contents. They allegedly made several trips by boat to Parem with their ill gotten gain. When they had stolen all that they wanted from the warehouse, they poured gasoline around the warehouse and set the fuel blazing before making their escape. Perhaps they thought that the gas tank that bore the family name of the alleged thieves would burn up in the conflagration but it didn't and police officers were soon in Parem recovering the stolen goods.
Not all crime scenes are that easy and that is the purpose of the series of ongoing seminars on Forensics. Even in the simple case of the Senny's burglary and attempted arson the case could be blown if the evidence was not handled properly. The seminar centered on the techniques of gathering fingerprint evidence from crime scenes, but it also dealt with preservation of evidence at crime scenes, chain of evidence management, investigation techniques, reading a crime scene and other forensic techniques.
The seminar was under the supervision of Mr. Bryn Jones of the Pacific Regional Policing Initiative. Mr. Jones was with the Australian Police force for 26 years. During 24 of those years he was involved in forensic police work. He is an accredited fingerprint, and blood stain pattern expert. He served as a team leader on the Bali bombing and was international site commander after the Thailand Tsunami.
Accompanying Mr. Jones was Eleisa Bulla from Fiji who actually conducted most of the seminar and training. According to Mr. Jones, Bulla has been involved in fingerprinting work for 23 years in Fiji and is considered to be the most experienced fingerprint expert in the South Pacific. Filipa Limi, a general police trainer from the Vanuatu Police force also conducted a good deal of the training. Jones said that Bulla and Limi are going on to Nauru and Kiribas to conduct similar seminars in those places and that he won't be accompanying them.
"They'll do them without me," he said. These two successful and qualified trainers from the islands are an example of the kind of regional success the PRPI are experiencing in the Pacific.
There is much to do before a full-fledged manual fingerprinting system will be at full operational force. Jones mentioned that legislation needs to be drafted and passed into law ensuring that the use of fingerprint evidence will be a legally acceptable means of prosecution in the FSM. It will also take some very specialized training and accreditation for dedicated officers at the State Police before the system will be 100% effective.
A previous PRPI training session resulted in the revision of arrest procedures. All who have been arrested since the implementation of those procedures will have had their photos taken for police files. They additionally are fingerprinted. When the fingerprint file has grown to a sufficient size and officers know how to classify and file them in an orderly manner, the system will be fully operational and will become an effective law enforcement tool.
Apparently the seminar was effective for officers. On the same night as burglars were transporting Senny's property to Parem others were carrying the safe belonging to IP Enterprises out their door without the owner's knowledge. The safe was found hidden behind a wall outside the store. It had not been opened and police thought that the thieves were probably going to come back and get it after it got dark again.
The thing that was different in the investigation of that particular crime scene is that police took fingerprints from the scene and have at least one very good latent print. It's currently not much to go on but is still a better lead than they might have had in the past. If the criminal is arrested for any other offence in the future, for instance a drunk and disorderly charge which is common, they will be able to compare the print from the crime scene with the prints that will be taken from him at his arrest.
Perhaps a few arrests and convictions of criminals from fingerprint evidence will finally give criminals something to fear - prosecution, maybe jail time.