The Evidence Response Team Unit supervises and coordinates Evidence Response Teams (ERTs) throughout the FBI. ERTs are groups of well-trained and well-equipped Special Agent and support personnel who specialize in organizing and conducting major evidence recovery operations in which the FBI has jurisdiction. These personnel respond to case investigations with the most current techniques, procedures, and equipment to ensure that critical evidence is identified and gathered for forensic analysis. Each ERT typically consists of a team leader and seven members, all of whom have designated responsibilities, including those of team leader, photographer, sketch preparer, evidence log recorder, evidence custodian, evidence collector/processor, and specialists such as bomb technicians and forensic anthropologists. ERTs are structured primarily for FBI casework but can also provide forensic support to other agencies when authorized.
In overseeing the ERT program, the Unit assists FBI field offices in the formation, operation, training, logistical support, and budgeting of ERTs. The Unit also researches equipment and techniques to ensure that ERTs are conducting searches and investigations safely and efficiently.
The Unit provides basic and advanced training for field office ERTs to establish the evidence-recovery capabilities of each team. Emphasis is placed on procedural instructions for evidence collection, evidence preservation, crime scene investigation, and search warrant executions with an end in the standardization of ERT protocols. Basic training covers photography, latent fingerprints, crime scene management and documentation, and evidence recovery. The Unit also sponsors advanced in-service training as well as specialized field training, both of which provide ERTs with detailed information in specific areas of evidence collection and preservation. Annual conferences are held to provide a forum for relevant issues and to obtain input from ERTs regarding policies and procedures.
The Unit is the Laboratory representative to the Critical Incident Response Group. In this capacity Unit personnel respond with this Group to crisis situations and coordinate the mobilization of field office ERTs in these instances.
During 1999, the ERTs provided operational response in more than 2,000 incidentsan increase of 100 percent from 1998. Specialized ERT facility space was established in five FBI field divisions, including Washington, DC, Boston, El Paso, New Orleans, and Anchorage, and an additional nine divisions will be provided specialized space during 2000.