How Do Chemical Analysis Labs Work With Law Enforcement Agencies?

Employees at a chemical analysis laboratory, such as the chemistry unit at the FBI, provide evidence analysis, crime scene investigation assistance and court testimony. They also train personnel at other law enforcement agencies. Only about ten percent of forensic chemists work in private labs, while the rest work directly for a law enforcement agency, according to the American Chemical Society.

One of the primary duties of the FBI's chemical analysis lab, states the FBI, is analyzing various substances to provide support for an investigation. These substances fall into the four general categories of liquids; powders and stains; such as flammable fluids; gunshot residue; and inks or dyes are examined to identify their chemical characteristics. Metal fragments, often from bombs, are subjected to metallurgical analysis. Paints and adhesives are identified by comparing them to databases of known materials. Food and biological samples are examined to detect drugs and poisons.

A law enforcement chemical analysis laboratory hires people with strong educational backgrounds in chemistry and criminalistics; extensive coursework in math and biology are preferred, notes the American Chemical Society. Forensic chemists use a wide range of techniques and instruments to examine physical evidence from crime scenes or suspects. Important technical skills include a strong experimental technique, an ability to correctly interpret chemical test results, attention to detail and excellent written and verbal communication skills.