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Mobile crime lab helps with toughest cases

September 23, 2018

After years of working out of 1980s-era ambulance, the Kalispell Police Department has a new tool at its disposal when investigating major crimes.

The department recently bought a 28-foot trailer that the Major Crime Unit has already used at a murder scene in August.

“It works much better than the old ambulance we were using,” Detective David Massie said. “It was hard to fit everyone in there and we could never bring all our equipment with us. We’d have to go back to the office to get things we needed.”

Massie said the Major Crime Unit was on the scene of the homicide last month for 19 hours.

“It’s not unusual for the team to be at a crime scene for 12 to 14 hours, so it gives us a place where we can get out of the weather, have a place to eat and be able to do the work we need to do,” Massie said. “Having a location where multiple people can share a meal out of the weather may seem simple, but is important in these long, stressful situations.”

In the past, a canopy tent would often serve that and other purposes. The trailer is also used to meet with other people involved with a case such as the County Attorney, detectives and officers.

The idea came from the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office, according to Massie.

“We started looking around for one and found it at Gardner’s RV Center here in town,” Massie said.

The trailer has heat and air conditioning. It also doubles as a negotiations center for use in standoffs. It was custom-built to include outlets where they are needed as well as a generator and other larger equipment.

Detectives also found during the latest investigation that it works well as a space to interview witnesses.

Money to pay for the trailer was budgeted in 2016.

Massie said while the trailer has already proved its worth, there is more work to be done before it will be fully completed.

“Someday, we’d like to replace the temporary wooden shelving and storage bench with a longer-term, metal storage system that could hold more and be fully secure,” Massie said.

Reporter Scott Shindledecker can be reached at 406-758-4441 or sshindledecker@dailyinterlake.com.

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