unique interest developed into “The Laboratories for Scientific
Criminal Investigation”, where he provided his expertise to law
enforcement throughout the New England area. In 1952, Dr.
Harrison began teaching law enforcement officers the “how to”
aspect of scientific criminal investigations. In 1953,
twenty-eight of Rhode Island’s “Top” Police Officers graduated
from that program. The Attorney General, in 1958, officially
acknowledged the Laboratory as a valuable resource to the
criminal justice system.
While working at the University as both a Professor of Chemistry
and the Assistant Director of the Laboratory, Dr. Harrison
developed many contacts with other faculty. He sought assistance
from colleagues in many cases. Two key contacts were Dr. Heber
Youngken, Dean of the College of Pharmacy and Dr. David R.
DeFanti, a professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology.
In 1969, Dr. Harrison suffered a
stroke and died a few days later. At that time, Dean Youngken
proposed shifting the Laboratory from the Chemistry Department
to the College of Pharmacy. Dean Youngken became Director in
1970 and Dr. DeFanti became the Assistant Director. In 1971, Dr.
DeFanti became the Director of the Laboratory. The Laboratory by
this time was operating under grants from the Law Enforcement
Assistance Administration (LEAA). Dr. DeFanti hired a full-time
examiner for trace evidence examination.
With the elimination of the LEAA
grants, which the Laboratory had relied upon for funding,
legislation enacted in 1978 created a State Crime Laboratory
Commission and the State Crime Laboratory at the University of
In 1980, the State of Rhode
Island, through the Department of the Attorney General, received
a grant from the Federal Government to improve the prosecution
of arson cases. This provided the laboratory an opportunity to
purchase new equipment to examine this type of evidence and to
add a third examiner to the staff.
In 1992, Dennis C. Hilliard
became Acting Director/Adjunct Assistant Professor of the Rhode
Island State Crime Laboratory (RISCL). In 1995, he became
Director/Adjunct Assistant Professor of the RISCL and to date is
the current Director of the Laboratory. As the need for
additional forensic services increased, along with the state’s
population, the RISCL has grown. Currently, the RISCL employs 12
scientists and support staff. These dedicated professionals
perform scientific testing and services on several thousand
exhibits each year.