Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation marks century of service

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DES MOINES, Iowa – On April 9, 1921, the Iowa Legislature bestowed authority in Attorney General Ben Gibson to establish the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, a centralized law enforcement agency specializing in providing cost-free support to local law enforcement agencies.

From these humble beginnings, with just a handful of agents and a budget of $37,000, the bureau has grown into the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), which provides a full spectrum of criminal investigation services — from investigative field operations to forensics analysis to support to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.

On Friday Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds led a special DCI 100th Anniversary commemorative event at the Iowa Statehouse in order to recognize the centennial. Joining Reynolds were Special Agent In Charge and DCI100 Chairperson Adam DeCamp, Special Agent and State Sen. Dan Dawson, Marshalltown Police Chief Michael Tupper and Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephan Bayens.

“I want to congratulate Commissioner Bayens and the men and women of the Department of Criminal Investigation on a century of service that has successfully adapted to the unique challenges of every era,” Reynolds stated. “The people of Iowa are truly fortunate to be served by a law enforcement agency with such a long and distinguished record.”

Bayens thanked the governor and congratulated the members of his department.

“A call to the DCI is one that many law enforcement agencies hope to never make,” Bayens said. “But should that call come, there’s a team of dedicated men and women who have been conditioned by a lasting legacy to provide tireless support and compassion. They stand shoulder to shoulder with state, local, and federal partners across the state to protect the innocent and hold accountable those who deserve justice.”

The BCI’s early focus was on crimes against persons, such as suspected homicides, unexpected deaths and felonious assaults, as well as gang crimes, rapes and the notorious crackdowns on liquor production and gambling. In 1939 the BCI joined the new Department of Public Safety as a charter bureau.

With the creation of a criminalistics laboratory in 1970, the responsibility for crime scene examination and the preservation and examination of physical evidence shifted to lab experts. As a result, an agent was able to spend more time on field investigations, interviewing potential witnesses and providing quicker case resolutions.

In 1983 the unification of law enforcement agencies under a larger umbrella grew the bureau into a division, a name and structure that holds today.

For much of this century, the DCI has worked to find answers to Iowa crimes — from the days of helping apprehend the infamous “Barrow Gang” to assisting with identifications in the crash of United flight 232 to the high-profile search for Mollie Tibbetts and investigating and recording offenders in all 99 counties.

While the DCI has changed significantly since its launch as a Bureau a century ago, one thing has remained the same – a foundational standard of excellence in providing premier investigative services to local, state and federal partners.

Today, the DCI mission has expanded and diversified into three bureaus: Field Operations, Support Operations and Special Enforcement Operations, as well as the nationally recognized Criminalistics Laboratory, which provides service for all of Iowa’s forensics examinations.

DCI Special Agents are not only trained in evidence collection, interview and interrogation and major case management but now receive training to document a growing volume of digital crime scenes.

DCI services are relied upon not only by law-enforcement partners but also by the public and employers. It also is the source for information on the state’s registered sex offenders, maintaining the integrity of Iowa’s licensed casinos and background checks in the form of criminal history records that are vital to the criminal justice system.

Other key DCI operations highlights include:

  • The DCI has a staff of some 220 sworn agents and civilian employees.
  • The division maintains more than 1.1 million criminal history files, some dating back to the 1930s.
  • Agents with the Major Crime Unit (MCU), considered the backbone of the DCI, respond at a moment’s notice to some of the most horrific crimes imaginable. From murders to kidnappings to sexual assaults, these agents are called upon for their expertise, their compassion for victims and their relentless pursuit of the perpetrators of these crimes. Arrest warrants, generated primarily from MCU investigations, increased 851% between 2008-2020.
  • The Special Enforcement Operations Bureau provides support to the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, with nearly 60 agents assigned to the 19 state-licensed casinos. SEOB provides focus on financial crimes, such as money laundering, credit card fraud, suspicious financial activity reporting and cash transaction reporting, as well as human trafficking and intelligence collection.
  • The Criminalistics Laboratory performs technical assistance involving the recognition, recovery, packaging, marking, sealing and analysis of physical evidence and prepares technical reports of the analyses and court testimony. Forensics examinations alone have increased 376% from 2008-2020.
  • A new DCI Cyber Crime Bureau will address the fact that every case worked has a digital component, such as a cell phone, computer, internet service provider, cloud storage or social media application. Data retrieved and evaluated from personal electronic devices and storage devices that measured gigabytes (GB) in early cases, has exploded to petabytes (PB) — the equivalent of 1 million gigabytes.
  • The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) provides expertise in investigative and forensic services to assist with youth digital crimes. This unit has seen a 1,570% increase in cyber tips from 2008 to 2020.
  • The Iowa Sex Offender Registry contains 6,445 registrants and maintains a rate of 98% compliance.

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