Prior to 1926, fingerprinting was the only science Illinois police departments regularly used to fight crime. Between late 1926 and mid-1929 the Charlie Birger and Carl Shelton gang feuds in Southern Illinois over who would control bootlegging, gambling and prostitution, and the rampant organized crime in Chicago, brought a public outcry for an effective police response. This led to the creation of "The Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory" affiliated with the Northwestern University School of Law. Many other changes in scientific crime detection occurred during the 1930's, and in 1941, Director T.P. Sullivan, Department of Public Safety, initiated plans for a mobile crime laboratory to serve the state under the Illinois State Police authority. On September 12, 1942, Governor Green and his wife christened the mobile laboratory in Chicago. According to an article in Police Journal, "It represented something completely new in the history of police profession; something of tremendous interest to everyone involved in law enforcement and it constituted a milestone in the science of criminal detection." The mobile laboratory contained an x-ray unit, photography, fingerprinting and polygraph equipment, microscopes and supplies that allowed scientists to conduct nitrate and blood stain tests, identify fluids, restore serial numbers erased from metals, and conduct qualitative and quantitative analysis of unknown substances. From this beginning, the ISP Division of Forensic Services, Forensic Sciences Command (DFS, FSC) has grown to almost 500 scientists and support staff throughout Illinois. Forensic scientists from the ISP now regularly assist law enforcement and judicial system personnel in criminal investigations. Over time, the DFS, FSC has been:
- The first forensic science laboratory system with a dedicated forensic science training laboratory - 1977
- The first forensic science laboratory system with a forensic science Quality Assurance program - 1980
- The first forensic science laboratory system accredited in the United States and worldwide by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board - 1982
- The first forensic science laboratory system with a formal state forensic science Research & Development program - 1985
Today, the ISP has the third largest crime laboratory system in the world, behind only the Forensic Science Service in Great Britain and the FBI.