UT’S LEIC Gets $2.5 Million to Help Solve Cold Cases

KNOXVILLE — The Law Enforcement Innovation Center at the University of Tennessee will further its mystery-solving work with $2.5 million in new funding recently approved by Congress.

Started in 1997, LEIC has grown to become one of the nation’s top resources for law enforcement officers through the state-of-the-art training it offers. UT, through LEIC, has received substantial funding and support this year to run and expand its four programs: forensics, technology, homeland security and its regional policing institute.

The money for LEIC is part of $21.4 billion allocated to the U.S. Department of Justice in the $57.85 billion Science, State, Justice, Commerce, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act passed by Congress in early November and signed by President Bush on Nov. 22.

LEIC Executive Director Mike Sullivan said part of the $2.5 million will be used to continue their acclaimed crime scene investigator training program, the National Forensic Academy, and launch two new national programs. One program is designed to help law enforcement nationwide crack unsolved crimes, or “cold cases,” and the other program will help law enforcement cross reference missing person and DNA databases with unidentified human remains at anthropology facilities nationwide.

Sullivan said UT is uniquely positioned to bring state-of-the-art science and law enforcement together.

“We have established partnerships with the Oak Ridge National Security Complex, both Y-12 and ORNL, which are on the cutting edge of science, and the UT anthropology department, which has the largest modern skeletal collections in the U.S.,” he said. “There are very few places in the country that can bring these capabilities together in one location.”

Sullivan said some cases go “cold” because, at the time the crimes occur, investigators don’t have the technology needed to analyze evidence at the scene. Through this new program, LEIC will help investigators re-analyze that old evidence using modern technology.

For example, he said, Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists a few years ago came up with a way to reconstruct videotapes to help law enforcement view damaged surveillance tapes. That technology subsequently helped get a conviction in a convenience store murder.

“There are scientists out at Oak Ridge who are just phenomenal and would be willing to work on cases like that,” Sullivan said. “There are some world-class breakthroughs going on out there. And bringing that kind of science to cold cases could make a difference.”

Solving cold cases, especially those involving missing persons, will also have a tremendous societal impact, he added.

“The impact is twofold: To help law enforcement have another piece of evidence to lead them to the perpetrator of a crime and to bring closure to families who have someone missing. When a child is missing, when an adult is missing, a family can never really close the book and grieve.”

In addition to starting these two new programs, the money will be used to expand two of LEIC’s programs — the National Forensics Academy and Advanced Law Enforcement Technology Training.

The National Forensic Academy is a 10-week, in-residence course in advanced crime scene. The program has drawn hundreds of law enforcement officers from around the country to study evidence identification, collection and preservation.

LEIC’s advanced Advanced Law Enforcement Technology Training provides “mobile classrooms” that take technical training and assistance to law enforcement agencies throughout the Southeast. Through the training, officers learn more about using the Internet to solve crimes, as well as investigating crimes involving the Internet and computers.

The LEIC is part of UT-s Institute for Public Service.

Sullivan credits U.S. Sens. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and U.S. Reps. John J. Duncan Jr., R-Tenn., and Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., with providing support.
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Contact:
Amy Blakely, 974-5034, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu
Mike Sullivan, c. 740-8593, msullivan@tennessee.edu

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