Training Dates

Collision Forensic Solutions is proud to offer multiple training courses throughout the nation. Please contact us with any questions you may have about our upcoming training. Don’t see a date or location that works for you? Contact us to schedule a training course in your area!




February 24 – 28 Wichita, PD – KS Total Station



DNA-gathering vacuum, 3-D laser scanner among Omaha police’s tools as detective work gets even more high-tech

scanning picture -William

Gone are the days of strictly old-school detective work.

Omaha police can now collect more DNA from cold-case evidence and analyze data from smart watches, homes and vehicles.

The department also may acquire software allowing detectives to walk through a crime scene in virtual reality so they can examine angles, search for clues and see a witness’s viewpoint.

While detectives have been able to search cellphones and swab for DNA for years, technology for both electronic and physical forensics has advanced even further — securing solid evidence that can aid law enforcement in solving crimes.

“It helps us identify potential suspects, and then once they’re identified, it helps us build a concrete case against them,” said Omaha Police Officer Nick Herfordt, who analyzes electronics.

Herfordt went through the cellphones that investigators found in a 2015 double homicide. A witness had told police that a “nerdy white guy” fatally shot two men.

Herfordt noticed that one victim recently had taken multiple pictures of himself in a hotel bathroom.

Who was in the corner of one of the photos? A nerdy-looking white guy.

Herfordt looked up the GPS information embedded in the photo. Investigators then called the hotel in Indiana and got the name of the man who rented the room — Michael Nolt. Herfordt then tracked Nolt’s cellphone, which led investigators to Arizona, where Nolt was arrested. Last year, Nolt was sentenced to life in prison for the murders of Arelius Hassell and Malquan King.

Last spring, the department paid about $28,000 for a special sterile wet vacuum that can grab five to 200 times more DNA than normal cotton-swab collection.

The device, known as the M-Vac, works especially well on such porous surfaces as stone, brick and rock, or years-old clothing that contains a scant amount of DNA. Extracting DNA from such items used to be nearly impossible.

So far, the M-Vac has been used on evidence in three unsolved homicides, said Detective Dave Schneider. Results from those items are pending.

The Nebraska State Patrol purchased an M-Vac in the fall using money from a grant, but the agency has yet to use the device. More than 30 agencies nationwide have the device, a company spokesperson said.

Because it’s so powerful, the M-Vac can collect a mixture of different DNA profiles, and lab technicians must determine which person is the primary contributor. That’s why investigators limit the machine’s use.

“We’re trying to narrow it to those scenarios where it’s difficult DNA extraction or when prior methods of normal DNA collection have not been successful,” said William Henningsen, the acting forensic manager of the department’s forensic investigations section. “This is not a tool that solves every case for us, but it’s another tool in our kit that gives us more options.”

Forensic technicians already can scan crime scenes using a three-dimensional laser scanner that can map a room in 90 seconds, Henningsen said. The forensics investigations unit soon may get a drone to map larger areas.

Officers and crime lab technicians will attend a virtual reality demonstration in February in the hopes of dedicating a room for the virtual technology by the end of this year.

Investigators wearing a virtual reality headset could step into a recreated crime scene and walk around, making notes and seeing what other detectives may or may not have noticed years earlier.

“That type of information is going to be amazing to have, where I’m not looking at a Polaroid or something,” said Schneider, who works in the cold case squad in the homicide unit. “It’s incredible where it walks you through the scene and you can get an eyewitness perspective of what the area looked like.”

As the Michael Nolt case showed, detectives already can get insight into victims’ and suspects’ lives by looking at their photos and scrolling through their digital devices. That will only continue as technology advances and the number of devices that can be mined increases.

Downloading cellphone data became the new normal in 2013, when smartphones became cheaper and more accessible.

“It’s rare that there’s any major case which doesn’t come through our office in some capacity,” Herfordt said. “Everybody has a cellphone, and they always have it with them. And even though you’re not using it, it still likely is probably doing something in the background.”

Herfordt is one of two digital forensic officers who work cases for homicide, assault, robbery and traffic units at Omaha Police Headquarters. Another officer works at Project Harmony, focusing on child victims and sex-assault cases. Information from apps, text messages, phone calls and Internet searches are up for grabs.

Increasingly, the unit is analyzing records collected from newer vehicles equipped with GPS technology that can track where a car has been. Vehicle data can show which doors were opened during a trip, something that could tell investigators how many people were in the car.

Herfordt said officers analyze vehicle data about once a month, but he wants detectives to collect more of that data for cases and to see record collection as a viable investigative resource.

“We’re trying to push our investigators to use that more,” he said. “Something like that could be beneficial.”

Fitness watches, personal assistants such as the Amazon Echo, home security systems and smart refrigerators all can be analyzed, Herfordt said. The unit hasn’t analyzed any smartwatches or Echos for a case yet, he said. But the advantage of data, Herfordt said, is that it can open doors to new leads. Most importantly, it’s concrete.

“That evidence helps you get additional evidence,” Herfordt said. “These are facts right here. It’s harder to refute them.”


BLK360 - William







How to Choose the Right Mapping Solutions for Crime Scene and Accident Reconstruction

By Michael L. Selves, Certified Accident Reconstructionist, Certified Trainer and Forensic Mappist, (PSFM)


A multicar pileup occurs at 4 a.m. on a major highway leading to fatalities or devastating injuries.  Gun violence erupts downtown resulting in a homicide. In each case, law enforcement officers rush to the site of the incident, ready to reconstruct the crash or crime scene. To understand what caused the crash and to help the crime investigation, you need to capture and preserve the scene as quickly and accurately as possible. It’s essential to have equipment that allows you to work efficiently and with confidence.

 crash from article


Choosing the Right Tools for Your Budget

In a perfect world, all crime and accident reconstructionist would have access to a total station, a GPS unit and a laser scanner. In reality, budget is a constraint. For example, an organization with 60 officers may only be able to allocate $10,000 or $20,000 for these forensic tools. So you have to assess equipment with both functionality and budget in mind.


Four Forensic Tools to Consider

As you review the options, realize that it’s likely that you may need more than one tool. They each have unique features that you can combine for a more comprehensive solution.


1. The Total Station

Total stations use an infrared wave signal to read slopes and measure distances, capturing one point at a time. If you’re documenting small crime scenes and routine crashes, this is a practical tool. They start around $9,000, and when you consider the number of man-hours it would take to reconstruct a scene with a tape measure, this is a budget-friendly tool.

Total stations have a variety of features you need to evaluate:


Go Reflector less to Conserve Man-Hours

Traditionally, total stations required you to set up a prism pole on the object you were measuring from which to reflect the total station’s laser beam. For this process, you need two operators—one to set up the prism and the other to operate the total station. Since most agencies cannot afford to tie up too many officers for forensic investigations, I usually recommend a total station with reflector less capability.

Reflector less total stations can capture distance measurements without a prism as long as the objects you’re measuring are within line of sight. Because you don’t need to set up a prism pole, you reduce the number of people you need on the job and increase safety. If necessary, you can use reflector less total stations with a prism pole for evidence that is out of your line of sight.


A Laser Plummet: Your Eyes in the Dark 

Officers have traditionally placed their total stations vertically above a point by using an optical plummet with a bullseye or crosshair. However, at night, when officers’ investigative services are often in demand, it’s difficult to see this guide.

That’s when the laser plummet, which is available on Leica total stations, is especially valuable. It projects a red laser dot on the surface below the total station. Once you’ve chosen the point from which you want to measure, you simply make sure the red dot aligns with it.


Split-Second Shot Time

When it’s 10 degrees outside, in the dark, and you’re standing on the interstate, you want a survey gun that shoots in under a second. And, of course, it’s in the public’s best interest to gather evidence as quickly as possible and re-open the highway before rush hour. Leica total stations make this split-second timing possible. I have not been able to achieve this with any other brands.


Robotic Total Stations Increase Safety

With a robotic total station, you can keep law enforcement personnel at a safe distance by operating it remotely. This is important, for instance, when documenting a vehicle crash on a road, for example, where one lane of traffic is still moving and packed with rubbernecking drivers frustrated by delays.


Keep it Simple

Don’t be taken in by the lure of a total station packed with an extensive list of features. For crash and crime scene reconstruction, it’s more important to choose one that’s easy to use and offers a faster learning curve. Simplicity is one of the reasons I recommend only Leica total stations.



You only get one chance to reconstruct a scene. You cannot tell people that your equipment has broken down and you’ll come back once it’s fixed. While many total stations are unreliable, I’ve never had a problem with Leica’s equipment.


2. The 3D Laser Scanner

The fastest and most efficient piece of equipment for forensic reconstruction is the 3D laser scanner, which only requires one operator. The one I use most frequently is the Leica C10 ScanStation, although I have my eyes on an upgrade to the new Leica ScanStation P40, which is even faster.

Measuring with a laser beam, the Leica ScanStation C10 captures 50,000 points per second, significantly more than a total station. Much like a camera, the laser scanner requires a line of sight to evidence being measured, so you may need to move it around and capture the scene from multiple angles.

Officers don’t have a choice as to when the crash or crime occurs. So, I choose Leica laser scanners because they adapt well to the inclement and challenging conditions in which law enforcement personnel have to work. It may be windy or feel that way because of the cars rushing by. If so, you want an ‘intelligent’ scanner that adjusts for that by using a liquid dual axis compensator (DAC) applies corrections during the scanning process. Also, you need a scanner that won’t fail you in rain, snow or a dusty environment.

While laser scanners are ideal pieces of equipment for comprehensive, accurate documentation, they are, of course, more expensive than a total station. I’ve worked with some agencies who thought laser scanners were out of reach for their budgets. They were, however, able to obtain grants to cover the costs. Given the benefits, it’s worth researching potential grant subsidies.


3. The Multipurpose MultiStation

The Leica MS50 MultiStation is a hybrid tool. It gives you all of the features of a total station to read slopes and distances. In addition, at the touch of a button, you can complete some minor scans. If you’re not expecting to document many multi-vehicle crashes or multi-fatality scenes, then it could provide all the functionality you need.


4.  GPS for Open Areas

High-end GPS receivers, accurate to within five millimeters, are useful for mapping large areas. For example, they are used by game wardens who work out in the open and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Of course, GPS does not work well if you’re documenting a crime scene in a building.


Combining Tools to Solve Problems

There are occasions when one instrument will suffice, but others may require a combination.

When a crash scene involves multiple vehicles or several fatalities and has a large field of evidence, it will take longer to map the area. In this situation, you need a tool that can capture a substantial amount of detailed information in a short period. The 3D laser scanner can do just that and all from the periphery of the scene.

If, however, you have difficulty seeing a tire mark, footprint, bullet casing or ricochet strike with the naked eye, it will be hard to document with a laser scanner. So, you may also need a total station. You just put the prism pole where the footprint is, document that point and use this to supplement data captured with the laser scanner.

For more information about total stations and high-definition 3D laser scanning solutions for law enforcement and crime scene investigation, please contact us.


Mike picture from articleMichael L. Selves is the founder of Collision Forensic Solutions, Inc. (CFS) and has over two decades’ experience investigating and reconstructing traffic collisions. CFS provides certified forensic training and has taught numerous law enforcement agencies across the United States. Their offices across the United States are composed entirely of prior and current law enforcement personnel. 

This entry was posted in Ready Room and tagged GPS, crash reconstruction, laser scanning, accident reconstruction, total station, crash scene mapping on April 2, 2015 by Michael L. Selves.









Maui police add 3-D technology to fatal car crash investigations

By Lila Fujimoto, Staff Writer (, The Maui News

MAALAEA — With the purchase of new equipment that can scan 1 million points a second to create a 3-D diagram, police traffic investigators are hoping to collect evidence more quickly at fatal crash scenes.

“This is unreal technology,” said Lt.William Gannon, commander of the police Traffic Section, who wrote the federal grant to secure $194,000 in funding for the Leica ScanStation P40 unit, accessories and training.

“What we have is a unit that’s going to provide us very accurate data with regard to a crash investigation,” Gannon said. “It’ll help reduce the amount of time it takes to gather evidence. This will help assist us in reducing the amount of time the road closures last.”

On Tuesday, police Vehicle Homicide Unit officers put the new technology to the test, returning to
the scene of a fatal crash that occurred in the early-morning hours Feb. 28 at Honoapiilani Highway
Maui police add 3-D technology to fatal car crash investigations.

The Maui News / LILA FUJIMOTO photo

The Maui News / LILA FUJIMOTO photo

Police Vehicle Homicide Unit officers Justin Mauliola (right) and Lawrence Becraft position the Leica
ScanStation as others watch during training to use the device Tuesday morning at Honoapiilani Highway and North Kihei Road.

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Metro Transit Police

“In May of 2004, our department started a Crash Investigation/Reconstruction Unit which required mapping equipment and Crash Investigation training for the officers within the unit. For a price that was considerably less than the other bids, Collision Forensic Solutions provided our department with on-site Forensic Mapping training and a “LEICA” reflectorless total station with all the equipment needed to begin investigating and reconstructing our crashes.

Again in September of 2004, Collision Forensic Solutions provided an on-site Technical Crash Investigation course for the officers in the unit. We have been very satisfied with the equipment, training, and support that Michael Selves and Collision Forensic Solutions have provided our department and plan to use them in the future for our Crash Investigation equipment and training needs.”

Lt. Michael W. Johnson
Metro Transit Police
Minneapolis, MN

North Dakota Highway Patrol

“In September of 2004 the North Dakota Highway Patrol decided to upgrade their equipment and software technology for traffic crash reconstruction. We interviewed several companies specializing in this field and in February of 2005 Collision Forensic Solutions, LLC was chosen. Their commitment to training and service after the sale was the key motivating factor. CFS provided a step by step hands-on training process giving our troopers a greater ability to provide professional collision investigation/reconstruction series to the citizens of North Dakota. Their knowledge and expertise were of great value to the North Dakota Highway Patrol.”

Trooper Mitchell J. Rumple
North Dakota Highway Patrol
Crash Reconstruction Specialist

The Crash Lab, Inc.

“Early this Winter I needed to schedule and host a MapScenes mapping class at my business here in the Northeast before the end of the year. Mike Selves, President of Collision Forensic Solutions, LLC was contacted, and even though given the short notice, and the fact it took him away from his family the week before Christmas, he came to our office and provided a week’s training in the heart of our worse winter weather of the year. We had just purchased multiple MapScenes Evidence Recorder 4.0’s. By the end of the week he had superbly trained all of us, new mappers and old, into the theory and application of forensic mapping while employing the 4.0’s. Since that time we have had several contacts either at Mike’s inquiry, or ours, and the responses have been very timely, and questions thoroughly answered before the calls were over. As a business owner, I fully appreciate the quality of the business relationship and services he has provided to my company.”

Gordon “Chip” Johnston, President
Accredited Reconstructionist, ACTAR #43

York City Police Department

“The York City Police Department received a grant for a total station and related equipment based on a price quote from a competitor of CFS. After Mike Selves submitted his sealed bid, we were not only able to buy all the equimpment and training specified in the grant, but also a lap top computer dedicated to the crash reconstruction related sortware.

In January of 2006, Mike came to York PA and conducted the training. Our class included 3 officers previously trained by Mike’s competition. In my opinion, the training was excellent. Mike entertained questions, and was very generous with his time. The officers previously trained by the competition expressed frustration because they were not initially trained properly, and complemented Mike’s training content and style.

The Sunday before Mike was scheduled to leave York, he agreed to help us map a recent shooting scene. After 3 hours of mapping, we were called to a fatal crash that just occurred. Without hestitation, Mike volunteered to go to the crash and assist us with that scene also!

In short, I would highly recommend Mike Selves and CFS as a Total Station/MapScenes instructor and supplier.”

Sgt. Steven Butler
York City Police Department
York, Pennsylvania