With a spinning green laser beam, Killeen Police Department’s 3-D crime scene scanner has been used to document and recreate some of Texas’s most notorious crime scenes.

By reading the distances from points of walls, objects and, in some cases, weapons, Killeen Police Departments scanner has created 3-D snap shots of the 2009’s Fort Hood mass shooting and the February instance in which a man flew a small plane into an IRS building in Austin.

The successes of Killeen Police Department’s Leica Geosystems ScanStation 2 let the department to make an upgrade in August.  Using money from the department’s seizure fund, Killeen Police Department upgraded to a ScanStation C-10, a $160,000 scanner four times faster and vastly more precise and detailed than the previous version.

Killeen Police Department was the first law enforcement agency in Texas to acquire a 3-D scanner in 2008.  The high-tech equipment pushed the department from the centuries-old technique of documenting crime scenes with plum bobs and measuring tape to something more akin to forensic equipment often seen on prime-time crime dramas, according to Detective Keith Dozzd, the technology forensics expert.

If also made Killeen Police Department the envy of other area law enforcement agencies, Criminal Investigation Division, Sgt. Candice Reyes said.

Taking a cue from Killeen Police Department’s success, San Antonio Police Department, the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office and Dallas Police Department have also taken a step into the 21st century by purchasing their own scanners, Drozd said.

The ScanStation recreates a crime scene by measuring the distance from a spinning mirror to the first object a green laser intersects.  As the scanner base revolves the laser records distances from the scanner to all objects in its line of sight.

In about five minutes, detectives are able to download a 1 gigabyte 3-D model of a crime scene to a computer.

From there, officers can navigate through the room and re-examine pristine crime scenes months or even years after the crime has been committed, Drozd said.

The scanner is so exact it will pick up grout lines in brick facades and wood grains in paneling.

The scanner was originally designed to document historical architecture, Drozd said.  Scans would be made to precisely measure the dimensions of a building to maintain its authenticity in case it ever needed to be repaired, he said.

The sophisticated nature of the device allows Killeen Police Department to counteract a phenomenon created by popular crime dramas such as “CSI.”

A common bane to police officers and prosecutors crime dramas and sometimes create a perception that crimes can only be solved with super high-tech equipment that often times is either completely imagined or entirely to expensive for most police departments to acquire.

“Either that technology is not out there or it is to expensive.  When they don’t see it, it kind of turns the jury off”, Drozd said.

Through the Killeen Police Department’s seizure fund the Killeen Police Department has acquired electronic equipment it otherwise would not have been able to afford, Drozd said.

The seizure funds gains money through cash and property seizures from convicted drug dealers. State law mandates the money can only be spent on equipment otherwise would not have been budgeted for a police department.

For Killeen, it has netted the Killeen Police Department, video editing equipment designed to help clean up grainy surveillance video footage to catch robbers, a device that can down-load and store large amounts of information from cell phones and a scope that can find and photograph fingerprints that would otherwise be missed through conventional methods, Drozd said.

by Phillip Jankowski – Killeen Daily Herald