Check out new 12th District Commander Gabriella Shemash's "DNA"


Commander Gabriella Shemash in the 12th District Lobby

While you may recognize Chicago Police Department's (CPD) new 12th District Commander Gabriella Shemash as an officer from the night shift, chances are you didn't know about her link to how DNA is now handled at CPD. 

Originally from the western suburbs, not even Shemash…much less her family…ever dreamed that she would be part of CPD. She came from the world of sciences in chiropractic practice and forensics. In fact, she went back to Northwestern University to obtain a certification in forensics. 

Within three years of joining CPD in 2002, her searching and persistence to get into forensics within the department resulted in her being one of four officers in CPD's Forensics Department. The others were a sergeant, another police officer and a detective. They are now retired.

They were tasked with creating a DNA Unit. "Finding a bit of a mess, we spent a year assessing the situation and launched the DNA work in 2006." They successfully reduced the backlog of cases sitting on the shelf waiting for processing down to zero. 

Their new protocol included the requirement of 10-day submission for all sexual assault cases and a weekly audit. The audit was conducted by a detective to make sure no cases had "fallen through the cracks." 

CPD uses the Illinois State Police labs* for processing evidence for most of their cases. The State Lab, in turn, enters the cases into the Federal Bureau of Investigation's CODIS and sends results back to CPD. 

The protocols at CPD were defined as a consistent methodology for evidence going to the labs. It included what was submitted, how and when. 

An evidence coordinator program was put in place so that local detectives know and work with state police more closely. "The DNA unit became the central location for a database and accountability for every piece of DNA evidence going out and coming back in to CPD," explained Shemash. 

While in forensics DNA Unit, Shemash was promoted to Lieutenant in 2016 and had to leave that department as there are no lieutenants positions in it. Her promotion took her back to the Patrol Department. 

In her 18th year as a CPD officer, approximately four weeks ago, after two years working the midnight shift, Shemash became a Commander and was assigned to head the 355 sworn officers and other personnel in the 12th District. 

With the leadership in Washington, D.C., COVID-19, CPD command changes, looting and peaceful and not-so-peaceful marches consuming everyone's lives this year, CPD's future community engagement model is an unknown. 

As you may recall, the results of the second round of the second year's "Community Conversations" were never completed. Aimed at including community input when establishing each CPD District's strategies, that type of community engagement may or may not be part CPD's future plans. 

Despite these upheavals and uncertainties, the 12th's new Commander sees this as an unprecedented time to make many changes which will affect the public as well as law enforcement. 

A proponent of engaging community, Shemash sees opportunities for change and progress including:

  • The new five area structure for the Detective Division. With her forensic background, she looks forward to being sure that patrol personnel are instructed in how to conduct preliminary investigations that result in faster crime solution rates.
  • The ability to work with further building relationships between her department and the public. She believes that building trust with the public is vital in improving the health of all Chicago communities. 

Dressed up for their last trick and treat gig are Bob and Kooyman (Koo-ey for short)

And for those who believe that being an animal lover is a sign of a person's humanity, Shemash's family includes two poodle mixes adopted from shelters. 


*An Illinois State Police report, "FY 2020 DNA Testing Accountability Report" was just released showing that a more current backlog of DNA backlog at the state level was reduced by 30% since fiscal year 2019.



Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Insert images and media with <pp_img> or <pp_media>. See formatting options for syntax.

More information about formatting options