Webinar Notes: Forensics at the Speed of Crime

Webinar Notes Forensics at the Speed of Crime

 

Overview (0:22)

  • Fifth of six webinars sponsored by Ultra Electronics Forensic Technology.

    • ULTRA Electronics Forensic Technology is dedicated to educating justice personnel on developing effective crime gun intelligence programs.
    • ULTRA Electronics Forensic Technology is the leader in forensic analysis through technology like IBIS.
  • Focus on transformational forensics to identify needed change and creative vision towards that change for communities to be safer.
  • Enlarging the box for forensic examination of firearms related evidence ensuring quality without compromising urgency.

 

Resource Speakers (01:55)

  • Ron Nichols

    • Firearm and Toolmark Examiner, Nichols Forensic Science Consulting
    • In the Forensic Science field since 1984
    • Has 15 years of experience developing educational resources and providing training
    • Provides international training and consultancy on behalf of the UN
    • Leading expert in communicating the scientific foundations of the firearm and toolmark discipline
    • Widely published, testified in more than 100 criminal cases and evidentiary hearings involving firearms and toolmark evidence
  • Rick Wyant

    • Supervisor for the firearm and toolmark section of the Seattle Patrol Crime Laboratory
    • Forensic scientist since 1995

 

Basic Housekeeping Items (03:30)

  • Listen only event
  • Questions can be typed-in to be addressed in Q&A
  • Q&A to follow after the webinar
  • Feedback survey after the webinar

 

Justice begins in the streets (05:11)

  • How can forensic scientists help bring justice to the streets?
  • Reality:

    • Injustices witnessed in Palestine
    • Children victims of shooting in different cities
  • Scope and limitations of Forensic Scientists

    • What we deal with

      • Laboratory policies and procedures
      • Other client agencies
      • Accreditation
      • OSAC
      • Parent agency
    • Affected by

      • Control over each aspect
      • Fear
      • Traditions
      • Resistance to change

 

History (09:12)

  • Ballistic technology was introduced as the backend of casework.

    • Digitized solutions instead of analog files
    • Only cases worked on by the laboratory went into the system
    • Constant backlogs
  • Timeline of case management

    • Underutilizing available ballistic technology
    • Cases overlap
    • Triaging of cases
    • Backlog of cases
    • Need for comprehensive collection no matter what the case
  • Large percentage of shootings are linked to another

    • Memphis          30%
    • Oakland          50%

 

The Boxes (11:39)

  • Dealing with our Boxes

    • Minimize detachment

      • Detachment reduces capacity to care
      • Detachment causes demotivation
      • Detachment can rewire our brain and leads to mental and physical illnesses
    • We will always operate within organizational boxes

      • Possible to expand the boxes
      • Think creatively and honestly what needs to be done
  • Expanding our Organizational Boxes

    • Decide to whom we are responsible
    • Begin with collaboration instead of ending with cooperation
    • Understand the difference between essential, important and desirable
    • Don’t make decisions on bad data
    • Have a willingness to move beyond tradition
    • Remain flexible
    • Start small and build upon success

 

Expanding our Organizational Boxes (13:04)

  • Entrustment and Responsibility (13:06)

    • Forensic science have public entrustment

      • Responsible to the public
      • Science to serve the public interest
      • Responsible for proper examination and interpretation of evidence
      • Make that evidence speak for a victim
    • Forensic scientists as expert witnesses

      • Specialized testimonies
      • Technology with potential to provide timely crime gun intelligence
      • Limiting the potential of the technology is against serving the public interest
  • Collaboration vs. Cooperation (14:33)

    • Collaboration

      • Take ownership of our role in responding to a problem
      • We become a source of a team-based solution
      • Role is vital and take responsibility for ourselves without concern for what others are not doing
      • Respond to a crime problem hopefully reducing it in the future
    • Cooperation

      • Do what we need to do to get through the problem
      • We become part of someone else’s solution
      • We resent our role and look for failings in others to absolve ourselves of responsibility
      • React to crimes that have already occurred with no vision for the future
  • Essential, important and desirable (15:42)

    • Ballistic imaging technology is not designed to be a perfect tool, it is designed to facilitate in moments what may have otherwise have taken months by a firearm examiner.
    • Essential

      • Firearm examiners compare evidence prior to ballistic imaging so that every gun represented at a scene is entered. However, so much of this effort would be wasted because…

        • Not every case results in a Lead
        • Not every Lead is a viable Lead
        • Not every case goes to court
      • Better solution: Cartridge cases can be reliably triaged by trained technicians for ballistic imaging entry. If a Lead is developed, evidence can be compared at a later time.

        • In a given week, technicians with 90% accuracy rate can enter approximately 60% more evidence than a firearm examiner using perfect techniques
    • Firearm examiners perform correlation reviews to determine whether or not Leads are present. However…

      • This is often a low priority task and commonly set aside for the more urgent
      • Correlation reviews get backlogged decreasing timeliness if comprehensive collection is being pursued
    • Better solution: Train technicians to perform correlation reviews with adequate quality assurance so that firearm examiners, if called at all, are only brought in to evaluate potential Leads

      • Well-trained and well-supervised technicians performed where 96%+ of their leads for confirmation are confirmed.
  • Important

    • DNA swabbing or fingerprinting of evidence prior to handling for test firing or ballistic imaging. However…

      • Majority of firearm-related evidence is not linked to another case
      • Can significantly hinder timeliness, especially if lab-based
    • • Better solution:

      • Find non-laboratory solution as laboratory solution slows things down
      • Do a cost-benefit assessment and minimize in routine cases
  • All Leads need to be confirmed prior to release. However…

    • Not all Leads are viable
    • Reports by forensic science laboratories issuing non-confirmed Leads indicate confirmations are rarely requested
  • • Better solution: Issue non-confirmed Leads

    • A confirmed Lead weeks after an incident is less valuable to an investigator than an unconfirmed Lead within a few days of the incident
    • Develop good quality control processes to ensure non-confirmed Leads are of high quality
  • Understand data (20:22)

    • Not only deal with evidence without a preconceived bias but, that we deal with administrative matters without a preconceived agenda.
    • ATF Budget Cuts for NIBIN/IBIS

      • NIBIN data reflected:

        • 4-month time period
        • 472 entries
        • 87 Leads developed
        • 46 involved in agencies outside the area serviced by the regional lab
        • 53%
      • Personal or professional agenda

        • Claim was only 3% of hits were outside the region
        • Alternative solutions presented
        • Not looking at public service standpoint
  • Move beyond tradition (22:06)

    • Firearms examiners can be resistant to change
    • Ballistic technology is a screening tool that does not require the same comprehensive examination
  • Flexibility (23:04)

    • Key for all collaborators – define what is essential

      • Be willing to consider other ideas outside your normal comfort zone
      • Not everything will work as planned or thought
      • Be prepared to make changes until processes get synchronized well
      • New things may develop that had not been anticipated so adjustments may be necessary
  • Start small and build wisely (24:15)

    • Key principles

      • If regional, then select a key city with which to begin
      • If accredited, define as a short-term pilot program

        • Help explain variances keeping a good record of what was done and why
        • Accreditation shouldn’t stop you from doing things differently
      • Don’t be concerned with backlog

        • It’s already too late and puts current cases at risk
        • Kills momentum
        • Remain current before dealing with backlog
      • Have regular, on-going meetings to assess processes and procedures
      • Easier to justify funds based on a pilot of success than it is to justify funds based on program potential that you have not even come close to achieving

 

Enlarging the Box (26:11)

  • Case Studies

    • Accredited federal laboratory with backlog in excess of 1,000

      • Modified policies and procedures within accreditation guidelines
      • Eliminated backlog while remaining current in 3 months
    • Accredited, state laboratory adjusted policies and processes for a 3-month pilot with a local city looking at maximum 72-hour turnaround times for firearm evidence, re-allocating one technician.

      • Resulted in a suspect apprehended in a car stop not being released because firearm in his possession linked to a homicide without a suspect within the required maximum holding period
      • Found such success that they made adjustments more permanent and offered services to other cities in the state with additional funding
    • City of 655,000 (2015)

      • BRASSTRAX™ installed in evidence room; arrangement for correlation reviews with technicians at ATF
      • April 2015 – April 2016

        • 75% of all firearm-related evidence entered within 72 hours
        • 95% within a week
        • 3,000 entries
        • 290 leads
        • 112 individuals identified and/or arrested as a result of leads
      • No medical examiner, only technicians
  • When laboratories remain in a fixed box and unwilling to expand to meet circumstances and conditions…

    • Those in the streets will choose to seek justice themselves.
    • Victims feel justice is unresponsive.

 

Transformational Forensics (28:59)

  • A commitment on the part of forensic science laboratories to collaborate with clients and stakeholders to create change.
  • In turn, communities become safer places for inhabitants to reach potential.
  • Justice begins in the streets in crime gun intelligence and shooting crime.
  • The potential is there with ballistic imaging technology.
  • Maximizing that potential requires a shift in thinking and application.

 

Practical Application: Washington State Patrol Crime Lab Division (30:10)

  • Where we started:

    • One technician for WA state in 1999
    • Brought in techs from other agencies in 2007

      • Seattle PD evidence staff
    • Hits took months for follow-up, thus customers lost interest
    • 2015: ATF task force

      • Implement IBIS
      • Hired IBIS tech
  • Goals

    • Meet ATF Task Force timeline of entering submissions in 48 hours or less to generate investigative leads in real time.
    • Increase WSP lab efficiency for NIBIN entry and turnaround.

      • Immediate lead notifications.
      • Confirmation optional?
    • Increase users and submissions for NIBIN entry.
    • Reduce violent gun crime through investigation of linked shootings
  • Challenges encountered

    • Evidence not submitted for entry-guns only

      • Lots of guns, no cartridges
      • Obscure cases to be captured also
    • Delay from crime to submittal

      • Needs streamlining
    • Laboratory backlog
    • Staffing issues
    • Existing issues create negative reinforcement to user agencies
    • Lack of efficient feedback loop
    • Lack of awareness and education
  • Improving Processes

    • Changes cannot be made without changing internal policy
    • Internal policy needed to reflect what is asked of the ATF MOU for utilizing IBIS
    • Resistance to change was present.
  • Task Force Collaboration

    • Backlog in latent and DNA slows the process for creating timely investigative leads
    • Detectives swab their cartridge cases for DNA for more immediate entry into NIBIN
    • The collaboration allows for more timely and effective results relayed to detective
  • Entry of fired cartridge cases from all crime scenes

    • One of the keys to success
    • To aid in 72 hours or less turnaround time:

      • Recommend agencies swab their own firearms and test fire
    • Latent/DNA are handled on a case-by-case basis but always performed before test fire
  • Solutions

    • Early entry of firearms casework

      • Additional request for IBIS/NIBIN entry is immediately created for all firearms comparison cases
    • Triage

      • All evidence Fired Cartridge Cases submitted are screened before entry into IBIS
      • Forms for triage created (sample provided)
    • Education and Training

      • Brochures and presentation materials for user agencies
      • Statewide training of user agencies

        • Train the trainer programs
        • Roadshows
      • Training agencies to perform IBIS entry in conjunction with ATF
      • Flowcharts or processes (sample provided)
      • Familiarization with NIBIN Lead notification
      • Walk-in Wednesdays

        • Detectives can carry evidence to the lab, put it in the NIBIN system and leave with it
        • Reduces backlog
      • Outreach

        • Offering facilities or options (bullet traps) to test fire firearms for IBIS entry
        • Contacting agencies with low rates of submission and offering training
        • Training – User agencies allot 1-2 agency personnel to be trained on IBIS entry for their agency.
  • Successes

    • An Executive Summary Report from Seattle CGIC (Crime Gun Intelligence Center) stated that two back-to-back leads resulted in a significant arrest.
    • Detectives from Federal Way PD brought in fired cartridge cases from three different scenes, three days apart. All were linked to a homicide.
    • Cases

      • 2016: Seattle Lead 16-007 drive-by shooting on HWY 167

        • 4 other shootings linked in Seattle and Gresham, Oregon
        • 5
      • 2017 Shootings

        • South King County gun violence

          • Multi-jurisdictional
          • 13 lab requests
          • 3 rifles involved
    • Prosecutor remarks
    • Local media attention

      • Led to outreach
      • Spread reach
    • Numbers

      • Hits/Leads doubled from below 100 in 2015 to more than 250 in 2017
      • Prepare with more pressure to examiners and technicians can get high, with the available information
      • Gun crime decreased by16% since 2015!
  • Wrap-up

    • Convince agencies to send in evidence.
    • Share success stories.
    • Streamline lab processes
    • Create more efficient and timely results
    • Train decision makers with the NIBIN system
    • Increase communication between agencies, lab, and TF
    • Key to success is motivated and driven NIBIN entry staff
Additional Resources
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