Candace Walker, the new director of the Atlanta Police Department forensic lab, in the gun room — which keeps a multitude of firearms to help with identifying what kind of weapon was used in a crime. (Steve Visser / svisser@ajc.com)

New star scientist heads Atlanta crime lab

The Atlanta Police Department has a new crime lab director who top cops hope will expedite investigations with as much skill as she has her own career.

Candace Walker took her first job as a forensic scientist in 2007. Today she is heading a major metropolitan crime lab that has been leaderless since the previous director said he was fired last June for being a paid expert for a defendant.

For the state’s busiest police force, a crime lab is critical, officials said. Otherwise, all cases have to go to the already overburdened Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which has traditionally suffered from a lengthy backlog of cases.

The GBI crime lab is exactly where Walker cut her teeth for four years. She also has done two stints in Afghanistan, working as an investigator for the Army and training local forensic scientists in that country.

“Before that I was in college,” said Walker, a Loyola University graduate.

She received a bachelor’s of science degree in biology and a master’s degree in criminal justice administration.

Maj. Stacie Gibbs said Walker was picked after interviews with many candidates — she didn’t have an estimated number.

“She is well qualified. We wouldn’t hire her if she wasn’t,” said Gibbs, who participated in the interviews. “GBI recommended her. She did two years with the military.”

Mikko alleges in a lawsuit filed in February that he was fired after a district attorney in Florida complained to Howard that APD’s top crime scientist was testifying for a criminal defendant as an expert witness.

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