Calgary police unveiled a new tool to aid with crime scene investigation today by opening its new Forensic Firearms and Toolmark Lab.

The centre is the first fully functional municipal firearms lab to be built in the past 65 years and it's only the second municipal lab of its kind in Canada.

Forensic Firearms and Toolmark Lab

The Forensic Firearms and Toolmark Lab will allow investigators to reduce the turnaround time on processing local crime scene evidence and obtaining forensic results. (Abbas Somji/CBC)

The firearms lab was made possible through funding from the provincial government and will reduce the turnaround time to process local crime scene evidence and obtain forensic results.

Chief Rick Hanson says the growth of the forensics unit has assisted in arrests and convictions in Calgary.

"The reality is there is no tougher job in policing than having to go to a scene where something bad has happened. It's not as glamorous as the CSI folks make it out to be on TV — it's hard slogging," he said.

The Forensics Firearms and Toolmark Lab will save time by being able to process more results on site.

The lab is housed in a customized 40-foot soundproof trailer in the parking lot of the Forensic Centre in southeast Calgary. Forensic scientist Darryl Barr says the new facility is a real improvement.

"Prior to this facility we were restricted to examining only bullets and cartridge cases from shooting scenes and now we are able to do the full set of forensic analysis on firearms that are seized," he said.

Calgary police also marked its 100th anniversary of it's first crime scene bureau, which opened in 1913 with one detective and constable. The officers were responsible for collecting evidence by taking photographs, filing descriptions and making identifications.

DNA samples wanted upon arrest

Hanson said the new firearms lab will help Calgary police lead the way in forensic investigations, but he also wants officers to have the power to collect DNA samples at the same time they take fingerprints upon arrest.

"At some point in time, the identification of criminals act will be modified — we hope in policing — so we can take DNA samples on arrest so we know that we truly have the right bad guy," he said.

The federal government is considering expanding its authority to take DNA samples from arrested suspects.
But Ian Savage, the president of the Calgary-based Criminal Defence Lawyers Association, says the government would be infringing on people's rights.

"We're all entitled to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in the court of law, and the right not to have our personal privacy invaded by the police without proper cause," he said.
 
Currently, Canadian law does allow for DNA samples to be taken from certain convicted individuals in a limited capacity.