Numbers tell an impressive story about the Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s new Forensic Dive Team. Collectively, its eight members have:
130 years in law enforcement
92 years of diving experience
62 years as expert witnesses
45 years in crime scene investigations
41 years with BCI
32 years as an elected or assistant prosecutor
8 emergency response certifications
2 dive instructors
The eight-member team began training in January and now is available — at the request of any Ohio law enforcement agency — to assist in the recovery of criminal evidence from lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water. The team is an extension of the Investigations Division’s Crime Scene Unit.
“BCI’s investigative capacity is no longer limited to the water’s edge,” Attorney General Mike DeWine said. “Now we have the capability to go after criminal evidence anywhere.”
In Ohio, “anywhere” could be a fairly clear limestone quarry or zero-visibility black water. The team has trained for dives in those settings as well as for varied temperatures, currents, bottom conditions, and entanglement hazards. Sonar and magnetometers will help the divers locate human remains, tools, clothing, and — likely the No. 1 focus of their dives — weapons. The team cannot, however, assist with rescues or in the recovery of suicide victims’ bodies.
“Previously, in some cases, we could not process the whole crime scene,” said Deputy Attorney General for Law Enforcement Steve Schumaker, who proposed the team. “Now we’re able to do it within BCI and to BCI standards. We’ll also be able to bring scientists right to the shoreline with us. So when evidence is coming out, we’ll have the advantage of conducting tests immediately if that’s what a situation calls for.”
The team includes a representative of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, a partner in the venture because of a mutual interest in recovering evidence of environmental crimes.
“It just makes perfect sense,” Ohio EPA Director Scott Nally said of the collaboration. “When we talk about shared services and partnerships in government, each of us can have our own stand-alone islands, and that costs money. Here, we have the ability to partner.”
Team leader Ed Staley is a BCI special agent and scuba instructor with 28 years’ law enforcement experience. He has high expectations for the dive team.
“We have some very well-trained people on the team,” he said. “They’re outstanding, and in time, they will be superior.”