Daniel Wilson starts every day with a bang.
Wilson is the sergeant in charge of the Edmonton Police Service’s Firearms Examination Unit (FEU).
FEU conducts forensic tests on crime guns seized by police.
“We are behind the scenes,” says Wilson. “Crime Scene Investigation Unit (CSIU) members go out and seize firearms and when they are done fingerprinting and swabbing it for DNA, they turn it over to us and we do that classification and functionality testing.”
The unit, which launched in 2021, has been a game-changer for the service and community safety. Previously, firearms would be sent away to the National Forensic lab for testing. This process could take anywhere from 180 days to almost two years due to the large volume of weapons the lab receives.
“We wanted to be able to speed it up,” Wilson says. “We are working towards examining firearms quicker in order to prosecute charges, and we are doing things between one to five days.”
FEU classifies and performs tests on seized firearms to ensure the comprehensive recovery of forensic evidence. Certificates of analysis are completed for court purposes, reducing the number of withdrawn charges. Cartridge casings are submitted to the national database for comparison and to find linkages to other crimes.
“If we seize a gun that’s related to a previous shooting, the investigators can use it to possibly take their investigation in a new direction, corroborate stories, or bring it up when they interview potential suspects.”
The unit includes Wilson, a constable, two civilian firearms analysts, and two civilian firearms examiners.
In their first year of operation, staff processed 749 weapons. This year, Wilson expects to break that record. To date, FEU has examined over 670 guns spread across 583 police files.
“Firearms Examination Unit is quite literally the smoking gun that can help wrap-up investigations.”