A media open house was held at the Amarillo Department of Public Safety (DPS) Crime Lab during National Forensic Science Week, giving the community an opportunity to see what the day-to-day crime lab.
The Amarillo DPS Crime Lab covers the state’s 26 major counties, from sheriff’s offices to airports. The lab sees everything from cannabis, mushrooms to LSD and several other drugs.
As soon as the proof is brought to the laboratory, it is properly sealed to guarantee the quality of the proof.
“We don’t know what happened at the scene. We’re interacting with him regarding the lab. We want to make sure the quality and integrity isn’t lost,” said Brandon Conrad, head of the laboratory of the Amarillo DPS Crime Lab.
The first drug seen in the region is methamphetamine. This usually comes in the form of a crystalline substance varying in colors like pink, blue and green.
There are no immigration checkpoints on Interstate 40, making it the drug corridor. “Drugs come from West to East and money comes from East to West. We get submissions from opposite directions,” Conrad said.
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With the development of technology, the time required to determine the various types of drugs is shorter. Due to the lack of helium, several machines do not use it. Several samples are taken to ensure the quality of the tests so that the report is as accurate as possible.
Another big drug seized is cannabis. In the laboratory, it is a green plant substance. Once at the laboratory, the microscopic characteristics are examined and observed to lead to the conclusion if it is cannabis.
“Twenty years ago you would see a brick and know it was cocaine, but today it could be fentanyl, heroin or traces of those drugs. There are also tablets that a lot of people feel safe because growing up that’s what their family gave them,” Conrad explained. “These pills aren’t made in a lab, where we would know the strength. tablets could be 100% fentanyl and would most likely kill the person taking it.
Once the weight of the product is recorded, crime lab technicians move the item around to determine what type of controlled substance is present by color testing with different types of chemical agents. Depending on the color that the substance turns once the liquid is added, it determines which substance is present. Some of the different colors seen are orange, purple, and blue.
The local crime lab also has a breath alcohol lab, where a lab medical examiner trains and helps maintain officers’ certifications. A 9000 intoxilyzer would be used during a DWI roadside check for a breath sample. A new mouthpiece is used each time, and a sample is provided by the person. A reference sampling device is used to ensure that the machine is working properly. Twenty of these instruments in the field are supervised and serviced at least once a month for quality assurance. This ensures that the machine correctly reads positive and negative samples.
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Conrad said there was a consistent amount of methamphetamine and fentanyl being analyzed at the lab. The Amarillo location specifically performs seized drug testing with the alcohol lab. Once the drugs seized are in custody, a forensic analysis is performed to determine if it is a controlled substance and if it is a particular type of substance. A report is then drawn up and submitted to a lawyer for prosecution.
Drug testing comes with different kits and tests to determine the type of drugs seized by officers during traffic stops. The Amarillo DPS Crime Lab is continuously accredited to be known for the quality of the substances processed.
Large volumes and quantities of drugs are seen at the crime lab due to the I-40 corridor.
“When I started here, there was only one person here. Now we currently have three evidence technicians to handle the vast volume of seized drugs we are processing,” Conrad said.