Although Staff Sgt. Dennis Buligan spends the better part of a 45-minute interview insisting crime scene investigation in Toronto is nothing like CSI, an hour-long tour through Toronto’s Forensic Identification Services headquarters reveals the opposite.
The head of specialized operations for identification, Buligan makes sure to impress upon me, however, that the technology is there, but the results are different.
“We don’t solve a crime in 90 minutes or an hour; it may take us weeks or months to solve a crime,” he said.
The first room we enter is the lab where technician Const. Marty Doyle is sitting in the dark, intently shining a beam of green light onto a pile of bullets.
Horatio — er, Buligan — takes a gun from a rack holding half-a-dozen firearms and places it on the examination table; the collection is from a recent seizure and Doyle is documenting as many fingerprints as he can find.
Down the hall and through another door, I’m introduced to Pat Flynn, fingerprint technician.
He pulls up a pair of magnified prints on the computer’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System and points out a number of miniscule green spots where he’s circled imperfections, breaks in lines, gaps or changes in the pattern.
It turns out real life fingerprint analysis is much more difficult than the CSI version: It’s only through hours of painstaking human analysis that fingerprints are matched. The computer comes up with a number of possibilities, then it’s up to the human eye to do the rest.
“I used to have depth perception,” Flynn says, laughing.
Next, we meet Jo Orsatti, a civilian and the Toronto police forensic artist. She demonstrates how she’s aged photos of abducted children, drawn suspect mugs from witness descriptions and even recreated the faces of unidentified victims of horrific crimes who are no longer recognizable.
The program she uses is called C.A.R.E.S. and was developed by a Toronto forensic artist.
For our last stop on the tour, Lieut. Caine — uh, Staff Sgt. Buligan — walks me past the plan drawing room where the artist/architect is just closing up shop for the day.
At the entrance stands a glass-encased model of the home of Cecilia Zhang, the nine-year-old Toronto girl who was abducted from the bedroom of her family’s home in 2003 and found murdered five months later.
It’s a miniature replica of the entire house including the little girl’s room, the suspect’s path into the home and up the stairs and his escape route out the back. It was created for courtroom evidence purposes but was made irrelevant when the suspect pleaded guilty.
Back in Buligan’s office, he says the main differences between CSI and the real thing, is that Toronto’s version isn’t quite as fortunate as Miami’s.
“We don’t have a budget like CSI,” he says with a chuckle.
Still, it’s all quite a bit more like CSI than he originally divulged.
It seems the true difference is the job is more challenging, time consuming and less of an exact science than Horatio and his team lead us to believe.