Kenya will soon be at par with industrialised nations in investigations of complex cases following the commissioning of an ultra-modern Sh4 billion forensic lab in Nairobi yesterday.
President Kenyatta moved the nation closer to international standards in police work with the launch of the new National Forensics Laboratory at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) headquarters.
The facility will boost detectives’ effectiveness in solving crime as investigations will be concluded faster since the country will no longer have to send samples to South Africa for forensic analysis.
There have been delays in investigations as detectives have to wait for toxicology tests on samples shipped out of the country.
Crimes such as terrorism, robbery with violence, murder, cyber fraud, espionage, kidnappings, rape and defilement will now be solved using modern scientific methods that limit human interaction with evidence and allow for proper documentation for successful convictions.
The facility hosting 10 laboratories is expected to aid detectives in combating organised transnational crime, trafficking of drugs, illicit arms and wildlife trophies using scientific data.
The fingerprint identification lab will conduct forensic analysis on concealed fingerprint marks by linking suspects to crime scenes. This unit will also maintain custody of criminal records in the form of fingerprints and be tasked with issuance of certificates of good conduct.
The forensic chemistry lab will conduct microscopy of gun-shot powder residue on clothes and human skin to determine the holder of a firearm that has been used in crime. The unit will also conduct toxicological analysis of blood stains, urine and other specimens to establish traces of poison or drugs in the human body.
The unit will be able to easily extract soil samples from a suspect’s shoe and match it with the crime scene.
The forensic biology lab will help in DNA testing on a range of biological materials gathered from a rape or homicide scene or suspect that can act as evidence in court. It will also maintain a DNA Index System for use in solving future crimes.
The forensic imaging and acoustic lab will be tasked with the retrieval and processing of CCTV exhibits, audio-visual recordings, crime scene enactment through videography and analyse biometric voice recognition for use in court as exhibits and for record keeping.
The cybercrime and digital forensics lab will be used in collecting evidence from digital equipment like computers, digital cameras, memory cards, flash disks and other storage devices as well as help in recovering deleted short message texts, contact lists, videos and email sources.
A rise in mobile money transactions from Sh9.39 trillion in 2020 to Sh15.3 trillion in 2021 and internet penetration in the country have led to a shift in crime trends. SIM swapping, cybercrime and cryptocurrency fraud is now rampant.
Cybercrime has become a real threat to the economy as billions are lost annually by banks, saccos, microfinance institutions and banking fraud.
President Kenyatta directed the ministries of interior and ICT to come up with ways to strengthen the capacity of the cybercrime unit at the new lab within two weeks.
“The National Police Service should introduce mandatory and continuous professional development programmes on cybersecurity for all officers charged with criminal investigations,” he said.
Other labs are the document examination, ballistics examination, bomb and hazardous material disposal unit and forensic and a forensic evidence management laboratory all manned by experts trained both locally and internationally.
The Anti-Terror Police Unit (ATPU)’s databank for current and emerging terror suspects will also be hosted at the facility. It took 20 years to build the lab due to corruption scandals.
“This national endeavour seeks to increase to support our criminal justice system in conducting evidence-based investigations, enable quick re-enactment of crime as well as conviction of suspects through validated and internationally accepted means,” said President Kenyatta.
Interior CS Fred Matiang’i called for maximum utilisation of the facility as Chief Justice Martha Koome said it would enable investigating officers to produce evidence of high quality in courts.
“The dream for the country to have a national forensic facility that would help in solving crime scientifically has been elusive for many years. This is after initial plans to set up the lab failed to materialise several decades ago, with every attempt being marred by corruption allegations that gobbled up millions of taxpayers’ money,” said DCI boss George Kinoti.
The laboratory will also complement the services offered by the government chemist by reducing the turnaround time for samples picked for further investigations during post-mortem examinations.
The laboratory is the latest of President Kenyatta’s projects aimed at improving the welfare and capacity of security agencies to meet the fast changing demands of modern crime.
Others are security surveillance systems, hospital insurance for police and prison officers and two level four hospitals at Ruiru Prison Staff Training College and the sh10 billion National Police Referral Hospital in Nairobi both of which will be launched later this month cater to the medical needs of officers and their families.