The gendarmerie at the center of a forensic exercise in a truly contaminated environment

On October 15, 2022, in the Cher department, an individual prepares to carry out an attack using an IED. Of the dirty bomb type, this device includes explosives, but also a radioactive liquid: Lanthanum 140. While in the middle of a maneuver, the terrorist is interrupted by a patrol from Vigipirate. Shots are exchanged and the suspect is quickly neutralized. The observations made on the author’s vehicle lead to his home. But whether it is at the site of the intervention or near the attacker, there are traces of the radioactive liquid: the premises are contaminated. So, to continue investigations in the contaminated environment, gendarmes with very specific skills are called as reinforcements.

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Expert screening and implementation place of high-tech equipment

This scenario is not one of the new disasters that will make the news. Nor is it the script for a future action movie. Rest assured, this story is simply an account of one of the exercises performed by the Task Force NRBC (Nuclear, Radiological, Biological, Chemical) of the gendarmerie. A group consisting of a detachment of thirty people from the Degraded Environment Investigation Group (GRID) for the exercise, including experts from the National Gendarmerie Criminal Research Institute (IRCGN) and the National Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear Force (F2NRBC).

Implemented once or twice a year, this type of exercise under real contamination conditions is extremely important. Initially, it allows to maintain, also to strengthen the skills of the staff during the implementation of forensic operations and the identification of victims in a degraded environment.

Second, it allows you to test new protocols and new equipment under real-world conditions. An important element to be able to estimate the level of reliability of the tools used.

During this exercise a complete laboratory was set up in a radio controlled area. A laboratory equipped with cutting-edge technologies containing all the necessary equipment for the identification of victims, with analyzes on site in an area contaminated by LAB’ADN (DNA analysis, x-rays and dental examinations post mortem), registration and detection of fingerprints, analysis of explosive materials and traces, as well as of the constituent elements of the explosive device, extraction of digital data on an on-board multimedia system and, finally, search for latent traces (pressure), allowing authentication of identity documents.

Other important means were employed outside the laboratory, such as photogrammetry (a technique used to determine the dimensions and volumes of objects from measurements made on photographs) and 3D laser scanners.

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Renfort by BSii staff

During this great exercise, the GRID gendarmes were able to count on the strengthening of the staff of the Office of Investigation Information Systems (BSii) of the Judicial Pole of the Gendarmerie (PJGN), whose action allowed the implementation of a network computer system that guarantees the real-time transmission of video and data streams between the radio controlled area and the support area (command PC), located 400 m away. A central point for the regular conduct of investigations in contaminated areas.

Thanks to this collaboration between DGA, IRCGN and F2NRBC, the gendarmerie was able to benefit from an adequate structure and high-level skills to practice in true radiological contamination. Present along the entire CBRN chain, from initial identification to judicial investigations, the gendarmerie is thus continuing its training to be able to carry out all its missions in the event of a serious CBRN crisis.

To notice :

during this exercise, Lanthanum 140 contamination was present in the form of a radioactive liquid. To avoid any risk of environmental contamination, the exercise was conducted in a very specific site and in compliance with the regulations relating to radiation protection.

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