Forensic Science Laboratory | Scientific Analysis Unit | Question
Document Unit | Biology Unit | Chemistry Unit | Explosives Unit
Assistant Forensic Ananlysts
Requirements: An appropriate three-year Bachelor’s degree in Science:
Anthropology, Virology, Criminology, Genetics, Molecular Biology, Agriculture,
Medical Degree / Medical technology/ Medical Science, Biotechnology, Entomology,
Archeology, Forensic Investigation / Science, Pharmaceutics, Information Technology,
Electron Microscopy, Metallurgical Analysis, Electronic / Electrical Engineering,
Chemical Engineering, BSc Engineering, BA Criminology, BA Police Science, BA
Law, BA Psychology, B Juries / B Proc, LLB, B (Pharm), Analytical Chemistry,
Diploma in: Veterinary Science, Biotechnology, Medical Technology, Trichology,
Forensic Investigation / Science / Criminalistics, Quality Assurance / Control,
Analytical Chemistry, Information Technology / MSCE / MCSD / Relational databases
/ Data Ease / A+ diploma, Food Technology, Electrical Engineering, Police Science,
Environmental Science / Human hygiene, Armourer.
A degree / diploma consisting of at least one of the following third year subjects
and one subject on any other level, if subjects are listed with an asterix (*),
then those subjects may be considered as one subject:
Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Inorganic
Chemistry, Biochemistry, Botany, Zoology, Pharmacology, Computer Science, Biology,
Physiology, *Mathematics / Statistics / mathematical statistics, *Geology /
Geochemistry / Mineralogy, Soil Science, Legal Medicine, Psychology, Criminal
Law, Criminal Procedure, Law of Evidence, Applied Mathematics, Mechanics, Pathology,
Investigation of crime, Genetics, Microbiology, Criminology, Physics, Metallurgy,
Mechanical Engineering, Paint/Polymers and Electrical/Electronic Engineering.
Certificate: Advance certificate program in Forensic Criminalistics.
Applicable service (100%)
Service rendered as a functional member of the Local Criminal Record Centre.
- Any laboratory duties
- preparing the specimen
- Calibrating of scientific equipment
- fragment analysis
- quality control
- Armourers experience at an acknowledged institution.
Service rendered as a Detective in the SAPS with experience in serious and
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Forensic Science Laboratory
Forensic Science is the application of scientific methods in the investigation
of crime and specifically the examination of physical exhibit material. The
word “ Forensic “ is derived from the Latin word Forum and is understood to
mean “ for the courts”. The basis of most facets of this field is the Locard
Principle. This states that every contact leaves a trace.
The Forensic Science Laboratory of the South African Police Service was formed
on 15 January 1971 with the Biology, Chemistry and Electronics Units. A new
building complex was occupied in March 1987 when the Ballistic and Question
Document Unit, which before this had resorted under the SA Criminal Bureau,
were amalgamated with the FSL. Early in 2000 a decision was made to amalgamate
the Explosive Investigation Service with the FSL, which realized on 2000-04-01.
In addition to the main laboratory in Pretoria, decentralized offices are established
in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban. The laboratories in Pretoria and the
Western Cape consists of all the units, while the Eastern Cape Laboratory have
Ballistic and Chemistry Units and the laboratory in Kwa Zulu Natal consists
of a Ballistic Unit.
The activities of the FSL are the application of scientific principles, methods
and techniques to the process of investigation. In an objective search for the
truth, the intention is not only to bring offenders of the law to justice but
also to protect the innocent people against prosecution. This service include
scenes of crime and the analysis of physical evidence in order to arrive at
a meaningful conclusion.
The Forensic Science consist of the following units:
1. Ballistic Unit
The majority of examinations conducted by the Ballistic Unit fall into three
- The rendering of an effective Ballistic service
- This Unit is responsible for examining firearm and tool marks. Etching process
are applied to restore numbers which have been obliterated on firearms.
- Internal forensic ballistics
- External forensic ballistics
- Terminal forensic ballistics
The examinations that are conducted are as follows:
- The examination, particularly in cases of alleged accidental discharge, of
firearms and their mechanism to determine possible defects.
- Examination of homemade instruments and miscellaneous firearms to determine
whether or not they comply with the description of “firearm” as defined in Section
1 of Act 75 of 1969.
- Determining of calibre and type of ammunition.
- Identification of the components of “small-arm” ammunition.
- Determining of the possible type of weapon from which a suspect bullet or
cartridge case was fired.
- Microscopic comparison of bullets fired as well as cartridge cases, to determine
whether or not they were fired from the same firearm, particularly in cases
in where it is suspected that one of the firearms was used at more than one
- The individualisation of fired bullets and cartridge cases to determine whether
or not a particular suspect firearm had been used.
C Examination of ricochet possibilities.
- Determination of the type of calibre or projectile.
- Determination of the entrance and exit of a projectile
- Miscellaneous examinations.
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2. Scientific Analysis Unit
The rendering of an effective Forensic Analysis service by applying the principles
A variety of organic and inorganic matter or substances is analysed at the
Scientific Analysis Unit. Typical examples of organic matter are plastics, synthetic
fibres, fuels and vegetable medicines/poisons. Inorganic matter includes soil,
gold, metals, and primer residue.
When two or more pieces of a broken object physically fit together to form
a unit, it can be proved that they are indeed part of the same object. Physical
matches play an important role in determining the origin of an object. Examples
of substances with which it is possible to conduct physical matches are pieces
of broken glass, torn paper tape or clothing, or any other object that can be
The variations in colour, formulation and use of paint make it a physical exhibit
with decisive value as evidence. It thus plays an important role in cases such
as hit and run, vehicle collisions and burglaries in which force was used to
enter premises or a safe.
Owing to its nature, soil is readily transferable to items of clothing, motor
vehicles, etc. This transferred soil can be of great value as evidence. In the
analysis of soil the colour, particle size, mineralogy and organic composition
are of great importance in the investigation of cases.
Examination of the filaments of lights (headlights, brake lights, tail lights
and/or indicator lights) in vehicle collisions can determine whether the lights
of the vehicle concerned were switched on during an accident.
Glass is often found on clothing and can have useful evidence. It is possible
to determined a physical match between a crime scene sample and a specimen can
be made and from which side the force was applied that broke the glass. Glass
can also be analysed chemically for a match.
This field focuses on the characteristics of metals and other materials such
as ceramics and the implications on the investigation. It includes the following:
- Determining of the cause of failure of materials by analysing the surface of
- Analysis of metals for conformation to specification.
- Analysis of the surface finish of a material.
- Chemical analysis and chemical profiling of metals.
- Identification of various types of materials.
Coins, Jewellery and Precious Stones and Metals
South African coins are examined in order to establish their authenticity.
Diamonds, rubies, emeralds, etc. are examined to determine whether or not they
are genuine. Precious metal are ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, silver, osmium,
iridium, platinum and gold. Any article or material that falls within the above
description, such as ores and soils, can be examined in order to determine the
purity and value. Chemical profiling is also carried out on precious metals.
This includes any chemical analysis nor performed by any of the other components
in the Forensic Science Laboratory. Routine analysis include:
- Alcohol quantity in liquor (e.g. illegal liquor sales, fraud as a result of watered-down liquor).
- Any diverse chemical analysis: including brake fluid, oils, glues and adhesives, dyes, perfumes etc.
Examinations done includes:
- Video cassette analysis.
- Audio cassette analysis.
- Magnetic tape sound enhancements.
- Scenes of electrical or electronic crimes
- Electrical fires.
- Crime related to computers.
- Data retrieval.
- Copyright on programs.
- Computer hardware.
- Voice comparison/individualization
Also known as the lie detector, the polygraph used detect any deviation in
for example blood pressure and heart beat when responding to certain questions.
Members have undergone intensive international training.
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3.Question Document Unit
The rendering of an effective Question Document examination service.
Examinations conducted by this Unit are;
- Handwriting individualization. By comparing the individual writing characteristics
present in the writing on a disputed document with those in the specimen writing
of a specific person, it can be determined whether that person is the author
of the disputed document. In such a case, there is an unambiguous connection
between the person and the disputed writing.
- Typewriting. A typewritten or printed document can be individualized as
the product of a specific machine.
- Erasures, obliterations, additions, insertions and overwriting on documents
can be detected and in most cases the original writing be restored.
- Forged signatures. Simulating and tracing of signatures can be determined.
- Base material (paper). The material used as a base for the composition of
a document can be examined to reveal whether the base material is of a definite
type, manufacture or kind that may be indicative of its origin.
- Ink and other mediums used on documents. The use of various inks or mediums
on one or different documents can be distinguished. Thus it can be determined
whether additions or changes were made by using another ink or medium.
Other apparatus and equipment. The examination of items such as rubber or
metal stamps, printing presses, sealing-wax apparatus, punch card machines,
photocopies, mechanical calculators can be of assistance to investigating officers
to determine whether documents were prepared by the same type of machine or
, more importantly, to be able to identify a specific machine.
- Indentations. Through the application of various techniques (e.g electrostatic
detection oblique lighting), indentations on documents originating from previous
documents can be made legible.
Damaged documents. Documents that are damaged by being scorched, burnt, soiled,
or torn can partially or completely restored.
Counterfeit banknotes. South African, USA dollar and other foreign banknotes
are examined with a view of establishing authenticity. Printers’ plates and
colour laser copies possibly used in the manufacture of banknotes, can also
be examined and linked to specific counterfeit notes.
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4. Biology Unit
The rendering of an effective Biology service
The Biology Unit is responsible for the analyses of evidentiary material of
biological origin, (e.g. body fluids, human tissue and hair) with the aim of
accomplishing the highest possible degree of human identification trough forensic
DNA analysis and microscopical comparison (the latter exclusively on hair.
The purpose of forensic biological analysis is to:
- Implicate an individual’s presence on a crime scene.
- Link relevant items, containing genetic material, related to crime scene/other crimes.
The evidential value of human identification through DNA analysis depends on
the ownership of exhibits and the place where the exhibits were found. This
important concept determines the value of the forensic biological results obtained
from analysing crime samples.
Microscopically observed structural similarities in hair are used to compare
crime samples (hair found on the scenes of crime) to control or reference, hair
samples. A single hair may reveal certain facts, for example, the race, the
area of the body from where it originates, the use of dye or bleach on the hair
and the manner in which the hair was removed.
Crime Scene Iinvestigation & Support
This component attends & investigate crime scene of a biological nature,
performs anthropology investigations aimed at facial reconstructions, collects
and refers entomological & odontological evidence, performs mummified fingerprinting
- Crime scenes are investigated to collect evidential material for further
analysis at the lab or reference to outside institutions and for the purpose
to reconstruction of events.
- The component does two-dimensional and / or three dimensional facial reconstructions
on sculls based on anthropology classifications performed by the Department
of Anatomy, at the University of Pretoria.
- Entomological specimens are collected on scene & referred to an outside
Institution for examination.
- Unidentifiable bodies are examined for the possibility of mummified fingerprints
on decomposed bodies.
- The component exhumes bodies for the purpose of control samples or identification
of the deceased.
- The component act in a co-ordinating capacity regarding the collection and
reference of ordontological material.
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Forensic Drug Ananlysis
Rendering of an effective Chemistry service.
The Chemistry Unit undertakes analysis in each of the following fields:
The SAPS and other Drug Enforcement and Prosecuting Agencies are assisted in
the investigation of drug-related crimes. Assistance is rendered by:
- Analysing substances (e.g. powders, pills, liquids) suspected of containing
controlled pharmaceutical and / or illicit drugs. The active controlled ingredient(s)in
the unknown substance is identified and the controlled status thereof with the
reference to the Medicines and Related Substances Control Act, Adt 101 of 1965
and the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act. Act 140 of 1992, is determined. Analysis
results are reported and expert testimony is given when required.
- Attending and investigate drug-related crime scenes, with special emphasis
on illicit drug manufacturing laboratories. A complete pre-and post raid forensic
support services is rendered with regard to illicit laboratory investigations.
Trained staff are available to reconstruct such illicit laboratories, give an
opinion on the activities thereof, and make production estimates.
- Compiling physical and chemical profiles on drugs for intelligence and operational
purposes (selected cases only)Data generated is compiled in a National Forensic
Drug Intelligence Database.
- Providing technical assistance to relevant legislative bodies regarding the
classification. And prohibition of dependence-forming substances.
- Providing of workshops and training to enable role-players to effectively
utilize the forensic technical support provided.
Common drugs routinely analysed, include:
- Natural and synthetic
- Cannabis sativa and products thereof (“dagga”, hashish”)
- Amphetamine and related compounds
- Various medicines controlled by the Medicines and Related Substance Control
Act ( Act 101/65).
FIRE AND EXPLOSION INVESTIGATIONS (ARSON AND EXPLOSIONS)
This component assists in the investigation of explosions by:
- Analysing exhibit material after an explosion to determine what type of explosive
- Rendering technical assistance to the Bomb Disposal Unit in evaluating home-built
explosive devices and explosives.
In the event of suspected arson expert assistance is rendered by;
- Attending fire scenes and performing a detailed physical appraisal of the
- Analysing exhibit material for traces of liquid fire accelerate (e.g. petrol,
CIssuing a detailed report based on the physical and chemical investigation
unto the fire ion.
Toxicology cases in which a criminal charge has been laid as a result
of suspected poisoning of people , animals (e.g. Livestock) or plants (e.g.
Poison analysed will include:
Exhibit material analysed include:
- Commercial pesticides and herbicides
- Metal poisons (e.g. lead, arsenic, mercury)
- Plant poisons (e.g. injudicious use of herbal and traditional medicines).
Organs, blood and urine are analysed by the Laboratories of the Department
of Health and Population Development.
- Food, fodder and liquids (e.g. drinking water)
- Plant and medicinal material
- Content of stomach and crop
- Hair and nails of animals
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6. Exlosives Unit
This unit is responsible for the management and maintenance of a bomb disposal
ability in the SAPS and for the control over explosives nationally. This includes
the administration and enforcement of the Explosives Act, 1996 (Act 26 of 1956),
Section 32 or the Arms and ammunition Acts and the provisions of standing order
SO (S) 43.
- Investigation of explosives related incidents, bomb threats, bomb incidents
and suspect articles and vehicles.
- Searching for and collecting evidence on explosive-related scenes
- Handling and disposal of radioactive and toxic substances
- Prior searching and safeguarding of premises and vehicles for explosive
devices during visits and appearances of every important persons.
Successes of the laboratory
The FSL's success are well appreciated by our clients - the investigation officer,
the courts of law and the community being served. It would be an injustice to
the laboratory`s hard -working individuals to single out specific cases as major
successes. Every case where a contribution towards the cause of justice was
made must be regarded as a significant success.
Technological advances include, but are not limited to the continuing success
of the Integrated Ballistic Identification System "IBIS" (1592 positive connections
out of a total of 74857 acquisitions on the database for which South African
received an award for the most effective installation globally at the international
user group meeting in Dallas, USA in March 2000), the growth and development
of the DNA Criminal Intelligence Database, the National Drug Intelligence Database
as well as numerous other developments to stay abreast with the newest technologies
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