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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee 874-2116

Criminalistics Association is major donor
to state crime lab at URI

Criminalistics Assn. shows crime lab support: (From l-r), Paul Witham, URI associate vice president for development; College of Pharmacy Dean Dennis Letendre; and Dennis Hilliard, director of the lab receive gift for the lab from State Police Sgt. Leroy Rose; Barrington Police Sgt. Dino DeCrescenzo.
KINGSTON, R.I. -- October 21, 2003 The Rhode Island Criminalistics Association recently donated $5,000 to the Rhode Island State Crime Laboratory, bringing their donation total to $23,500 in cash and equipment to the lab since 1997.

This most recent gift honors the 50-year anniversary of the first graduating class of law enforcement officers from the criminal investigation, scientific evidence course that began in 1953, under the direction of the late URI Chemistry Professor Harold Harrison. The first graduating class met at an East Providence restaurant in March of 1954 and formed the University of Rhode Island Criminalistics Associates or URICA. When the group formally incorporated in 1984, it had to change the name to the Rhode Island Criminalistics Association or RICA. Currently, RICA has more than 380 active and associate members.

In 1970 the crime lab and the course moved to the College of Pharmacy under the direction of the late URI Pharmacology Professor David DeFanti. Today, the course is still offered, and currently 32 law enforcement officers are enrolled in the 32nd class. They represent 24 Rhode Island police agencies, 1 federal prison agency and 1 Massachusetts police agency.

"Our members realize the importance of the lab’s crime school to the state and its law enforcement community," said State Police Sgt. Leroy Rose, the association’s president. "We need that crime lab to be as efficient and effective to serve as a powerful crime-solving tool. I was in the lab in 1990 taking the criminal investigation course, and to see what is there now, it has come a long way. RICA wants to continue to see that improvement."

The laboratory is located at the University of Rhode Island’s College of Pharmacy and is the chief facility for examination of physical crime evidence in the state, and serves as a training center for police throughout the state. It has also played a pivotal role in the development of URI’s Forensic Science Partnership.

The majority of the criminalistics association members are graduates of the scientific evidence course run by the lab. They are active or retired investigators from local, state and regional law enforcement or fire investigation agencies.

Paul Witham, URI associate vice president for development, said he appreciated the long-term commitment from the association. "It’s become clear to many people that strong forensic science leads to effective police work, and so we at URI are glad the association sees the crime lab as a pivotal player in the equation. At the University, we have focused on developing our strengths in forensic science, and the support of the association shows that we are moving in the right direction."

Dennis Hilliard, director of the lab and co-director of the Forensic Science Partnership, said the association’s support has never wavered. "I have been associated with the state crime lab since 1977 and began attending meetings of the RICA shortly thereafter. Historically, the whole purpose or mission of RICA was to see that the lab had the means to continue the crime school program. They have supported the educational programs of the lab physically as well as financially. As the courses were added, changed or updated, RICA was there to support us with whatever was necessary. They are a dedicated group of men and women. I want to thank them for their support now and I look forward to their continued generous support in the future."

The laboratory had its beginnings in 1949 with the arrival of Professor Harrison in URI’s Department of Chemistry. He was passionate about applying science to police investigations, and he first offered his expertise to the South Kingstown Police Department in a breaking and entering case. He matched glass from a store window to samples of glass found in the pant-leg cuffs of a suspect. He also began teaching courses for local police officers, and in 1958 the state attorney general recognized the lab as a valuable resource to the criminal justice system. In 1978, the state General Assembly created a state crime commission and the state crime lab at URI.
The crime lab provides analysis of: arson debris, firearms and tool marks, latent prints, blood alcohol levels, and trace comparisons of hair, fiber, paint and soil.

The lab also provides training, including the 24-week scientific criminal investigation course and specialized workshops. Crime lab personnel also lecture at the Municipal Police Training Academy and at URI. In conjunction with the University the lab provides experts, including engineers, botanists, geologists, chemists, textile scientists and other technical specialists. Many of these University faculty and staff comprise the Forensic Science Partnership, which was created by the University, in conjunction with the State Crime Laboratory, in 1999.

For Information: Dennis Hilliard 874-2896

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Page last revised Wednesday, October 22, 2003 .