Kansas City Police Department

At first glance, the KCPD Vehicle Processing Facility appears to be a standard mechanic’s shop.  In the large, open layout of the main bay area, there are six vehicle bays, each equipped with air tools and a work light, all suspended from reels on the ceiling. These tools will be used for removing tires or other parts from vehicles. Two of the bays have lifts, which will be useful when technicians need to look under a vehicle for damage or for trace evidence.

The lifts are wide enough to accommodate a flatbed tow truck, so the tow-truck driver can pull straight through the bay area, unload the vehicle, and drive straight out the other side. Each bay is clearly numbered on the outside to make it simple to communicate to tow-truck drivers where the vehicle should be dropped off. 

Another example of forward thinking was the acquisition of a Power Pusher, a pedestrian-operated “tug unit” that can be used to move vehicles in and out of the facility with-out the need to call a tow truck for assistance. The Power Pusher is a compact, battery-powered  unit that is capable of moving almost any vehicle, up to a semi-trailer truck.

Outside, there is an additional 2,000 square-feet of space below a canopy that extends past the entrance to the bays.  In theory, said Rafferty, there could be eight vehicles inside being processed at once and another six outside under the canopy. A seventh bay—designed specifically for processing vehicles with luminol and superglue — is located just off the main bay area in a  garage-sized  room that has no windows.  When the garage door and the door to the main bay area are closed and the lights are switched off, the room Is totally dark— which makes it ideal for viewing and photographing a  vehicle  processed  with  luminol. This room also features a custom-made plastic enclosure that can be pulled out from the wall to completely surround a vehicle and serve as a fuming tent. The tent reduces the volume of the room to make it more efficient when processing a vehicle with cyanoa-crylate ester (superglue). For other light-sensitive processes, the windows in the main bay area—designed to make maximum use of natural light—can be covered with motorized shades simply by turning a switch. This  does  not  completely  black  out  the  area,  but  it  does significantly reduce the amount of outside light that is able to enter the facility. The  interior walls  of  the  facility  are  covered  with  cement  fiberboard, chosen because of its sturdy   nature.  “It  is  a  crime   lab,  but it is also essentially an auto  shop, so we “Constructed  it  with  durability  in  mind,”  said  Steve  Salzer,  project  architect with Kansas City, Missouri architectural  firm El  Dorado, Inc. The material is also easy to wash, so that fingerprint powder built up over time can be removed.

Lighting in the main bay area is typical shop lighting, with an “up-light component to the light fixtures that cuts down on shadow-casting and hot spots when doing  photography,” said Salzer. Step away from the main bay area and you will find a couple of rooms that more closely resemble a working crime laboratory.  The first is a dedicated laboratory that features a  water  polisher,  superglue  fuming chamber, drying cabinet,  and  a large fume  hood —  as well as  ample work surfaces storage,  and  a  refrigerator.   The second room is a report-writing office. Evidence collected at this facility will be tagged and bagged using a digital bar coding  system  that  ties  into  the network at the KCPD Crime Laboratory, located about  20  minutes  away.  Laptops and barcode scanners will allow the technicians to record  evidence  right  at  the side of the vehicle they  are processing, if necessary.

Physical evidence will then be transported directly to the laboratory property evidence room. Although evidence will not be stored on site, security was a major consideration in the design of the facility. Crime-scene and crime-laboratory personnel are the only people  with direct access to the building; detectives and other police officers are not issued key cards. Vehicle-entry gates to the facility are controlled by keycard, as are doors to the interior of the facility. The feed from security cameras at the vehicle processing facility ties into the main crime laboratory for remote viewing. Finally, the vehicle processing facility (along with the entire vehicle impound facility) was built with an environmentally sound purpose.Finally,the vehicle processing facility (along with the entire vehicle impound facility) was built with an environmentally sound purpose. Features such as long-lasting corrugated zinc exterior siding rainwater-management system that channels water from the roof into a rain garden low-VOC paints and maximum use of natural light have the facility on track to earn a Silver certification with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System.

While watching the other personnel familiarize themselves with the facility in late January, Crime Scene Technician Keller acknowledged how fortunate the KCPD is to have  this state-of-the-art,  dedicated vehicle processing facility. She added that the facility will certainly be put to good use.  “We probably  process  about 15 cars a month,”  said Keller. “That  includes carjackings,  stolen  autos, hit -and -runs shootings… But if you think about it, almost every crime involves a vehicle.”