Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI)


The Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) was established in 1935 by the MA State Legislature to assist local law enforcement agencies on Cape Cod. Located atop a hill and next to the now defunct old jail in Barnstable Village, lawmakers recognized the need for such a mission because the Cape is so geographically distinct from the rest of Massachusetts.

Today, there are eight Criminal Investigation Officers (or CIOs) working at BCI. They are supervised by a First Assistant CIO and Assistant CIO and supported by a Criminal Evidence Officer and an Administrative Assistant. The Bureau assists Barnstable County’s 15 communities as well as the Cape and Islands. It also works with federal and state law enforcement agencies.

Nearly 3,000 calls for assistance are placed to BCI annually. Most relate to the processing of crime scenes, with motor vehicle crashes, assaults, breaking and enterings, robberies, and home invasions at the top of the list. In addition to crimes, the Bureau is part of the preparedness response activated for natural and man-made disasters.

The CIOs routinely participate in state and local investigator meetings; the Assistant CIO has specialized training as a member of the region’s Accident Reconstruction Team; the First Assistant CIO meets regularly with Cape police chiefs, among others. None of this is by accident. Intelligence sharing is what has enabled BCI to maintain its high level of service and better protect public safety. BCI is especially well positioned to gather and study criminal enterprises -- giving local police a larger piece of their puzzle and state and federal agents a smaller one of theirs. Burglaries where suspects and potential suspects operate across town lines, a common occurrence, is but one example.

The Bureau has also become invaluable in what some call the Cape’s laboratory of crime solving; those communities where crime analysis can lead directly to criminal apprehensions, where training is passed down, and where even informational presentations can make a difference.

Our CIOs, many of them former police officers, are trained in what are called forensic disciplines. Chief among them are latent fingerprint comparison, photography, DNA collection, and crime scene investigations. More specialized training is offered in forensic video analysis, computer-generated facial compositions, composite artistry, and ridgeology. (Ridgeology is a subsidiary discipline of fingerprinting; it helps analysts distinguish between usable and unusable prints. See the final three paragraphs in this text.)

The need to declare the officers as court-certified expert witnesses is covered in the training to comply with industry standards. Yearly in-service updates make CIOs even better equipped to play a role in the successful prosecution of criminals.

CIOs have the same training as police officers and specialized training in addition to that.

Another bureau accomplishment is the Cape Cod Computer Crime and Training Team. Created by Sheriff Cummings and the Cape Cod Chiefs Law Enforcement Council, the team analyzes digital evidence and trains other law enforcement officers in its collection. The joint BCI-local Cape police unit has three FRED, or forensic recovery of evidence device, machines. One machine is located at BCI headquarters and a CIO there is among the Cape’s specially trained users.













The Bureau also has custody of more than 50,000 individual inked fingerprint cards to help identify the region’s future and repeat criminals. CIOs also have access to an AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System) machine; it enables them to view any fingerprint card on file in the much larger statewide system. AFIS also enables users to compare latent prints (those lifted at crime scenes) with national and other state data banks.

The primary and essential duty of criminal identification officers is to detect, preserve, and identify the physical evidence found at crime scenes. What our officers gather is then processed either in house or at another agency, most commonly for us at the Massachusetts State Police Crime Lab. We develop and file the photographs we take at our own BCI photo lab.


The two questions we’re most often asked at BCI: What is a latent fingerprint? Why is it so important? The answer begins with something called the "friction ridge skin," located on the palmar surface of the hands and soles of the feet.

This friction ridge skin forms patterns and characteristics that are unique and permanent to each individual. The ridges have sweat pores that exude tiny amounts of perspiration. Added to this is an equally invisible film that comes when people touch their hair, face, or other parts of the body.

It is these ridges, coupled with the minute amount of moisture thus generated, that a suspect can unwittingly leave behind – the “latent” or hidden print so valued by crime solvers.


Sheriff’s CCRLEC IT team project….FRED – Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device

For more information about BCI contact:

Matthew Smith, 1st Assistant CIO

(508) 375-6134


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