Combined Laboratories shares neighborhood with college

By Cody D. Medrano

LCCC Neighbors LogoDown the street from Laramie County Community College is a building with a “Combined Laboratories” sign. The combined laboratories, situated at 208 S. College Drive, are the main hub of both the Wyoming Department of Health and the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI).

In 1985, the DCI was situated in the Rogers Building on the corner of 19th Street and Carey Avenue. The building was originally the Old Millers Grocery Store, which was renovated when the need for the DCI arose. The building was also home to administrative offices and the Wyoming State Crime Lab.

DCI’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) division operated out of the Quest Building on Yellowstone Road because of a lack of space in the Rogers Building. Because of the overflow of personnel in the Rogers Building, the Wyoming Legislature recognized DCI needed a new facility to be able to perform at the necessary level. The Legislature also needed to move the Health Department.

The decision was made to use property the state had owned for quite some time and put the two departments together in the one building, thus giving it the name Combined Laboratories.

In 1973, the Wyoming Legislature created the Division of Criminal Investigation to enforce the Wyoming Controlled Substances Act, investigate organized crime across jurisdictional boundaries and later investigate crimes against children over the Internet.

“We’re basically the drug enforcement police for the entire state,” DCI Director Forrest Bright said. The DCI works closely with sheriffs of the state in Wyoming and has 13 offices statewide, Combined Laboratories being the headquarters.

Bright is in charge of 30 state officers and another 31 task force officers. These officers are appointed by the state to work full time specifically in narcotics operations. These 61 officers work on nothing but narcotics enforcement within the 13 offices. In addition to the number of arrests or indictments made against drug dealers and other criminals, DCI works after the arrest to get to the source, finding the distributor of the drugs for which they have made arrests.

Unfortunately, an educational relationship between the LCCC criminal justice program and the DCI is impossible because of security. A full criminal background check must be conducted to allow someone to walk the area unescorted; otherwise, someone must have an agent escort him at all times in the facility.

These checks take too much time to make such an arrangement feasible. The reason for this is the building houses criminal information and leaks to anyone outside the DCI must be avoided.

Although the DCI is mainly used for drug enforcement cases and Internet crimes, there have been cases in which the DCI has been requested on several other types of crimes such as murders and embezzlement. This is usually through the requests of sheriffs, district attorneys, county attorneys or the governor.

Through humble beginnings starting off in a renovated grocery store and sharing the space with administrators and a state crime lab, the DCI has grown into a sought-after law enforcement unit. From working tirelessly to find drug distributors to actually being requested by other divisions, DCI has become an integral part of the law enforcement. And now it’s our LCCC neighbor.