In January, County Executive Rob Astorino unveiled the newly renovated Westchester County Police Academy, following a $9.3 million overhaul to upgrade training facilities and create a new state-of-the-art forensic crime lab.
Westchester has been at the forefront of the forensic-tech community for the past 25 years. Its crime lab was the 14th in the US to receive accreditation from the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLAD) and the second nationwide to receive ASCLAD’s accreditation in Crime Scene Investigation.
Currently, Westchester County’s crime lab is the only one in New York State to be ASCLAD-accredited in the disciplines of Ballistics, Crime Scene Investigation, Latent Print Comparison, Latent Print Processing, and Digital Evidence/Computer Forensics.
This wide breadth of capability allows the county police to provide essential support to local law enforcement. “The standards for crime labs are continually changing,” says Kieran O’Leary, a spokesman for the Westchester County Police Department, “So [this lab] is here to assist every municipal police department.”
The crime lab received several new pieces of equipment as a result of this renovation. Perhaps the most important of these is a new 3-D laser scanner. “This is the new gold standard,” says Sgt. James Harrison, director of the lab. “It is incredibly accurate—up to one-quarter of an inch at 30 feet.”
“We are planning for the next 25 years,” adds O’Leary. “We want to be able to accommodate the upcoming growth.”
Though the crime lab had shared space with the county police headquarters in Hawthorne, the enhanced facility occupies the same Valhalla campus as the Westchester County Police Academy, which also received a recent reno.
Along with basic infrastructure upgrades designed to make the academy more energy efficient, the classroom areas were overhauled, and new technology for lecturers was provided. When asked his opinion of the county’s latest law-enforcement enhancements, County Executive Rob Astorino said: “This project is about…doing all we can to keep our people safe,” adding, “This is CSI: Westchester!”