Webinar Notes Forensics at the Speed of Crime
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)
- 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
- 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?
- 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
- Parent agency
- Control over each aspect
- Resistance to change
- What we deal with
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
- 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
- Minimize detachment
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
- Forensic science have public entrustment
Collaboration vs. Cooperation (14:33)
- 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
- 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.
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 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…
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.
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
- DNA swabbing or fingerprinting of evidence prior to handling for test firing or ballistic imaging. However…
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
Personal or professional agenda
- Claim was only 3% of hits were outside the region
- Alternative solutions presented
- Not looking at public service standpoint
- NIBIN data reflected:
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
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
- Key for all collaborators – define what is essential
Start small and build wisely (24:15)
- 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
- Key principles
Enlarging the Box (26:11)
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
- Accredited federal laboratory with backlog in excess of 1,000
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
- 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
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
- Evidence not submitted for entry-guns only
- 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
Early entry of firearms casework
- Additional request for IBIS/NIBIN entry is immediately created for all firearms comparison cases
- 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
- Training agencies to perform IBIS entry in conjunction with ATF
- Flowcharts or processes (sample provided)
- Familiarization with NIBIN Lead notification
- Detectives can carry evidence to the lab, put it in the NIBIN system and leave with it
- Reduces backlog
- 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.
- Early entry of firearms casework
- 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.
2016: Seattle Lead 16-007 drive-by shooting on HWY 167
- 4 other shootings linked in Seattle and Gresham, Oregon
South King County gun violence
- 13 lab requests
- 3 rifles involved
- South King County gun violence
- 2016: Seattle Lead 16-007 drive-by shooting on HWY 167
- Prosecutor remarks
Local media attention
- Led to outreach
- Spread reach
- 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!
- 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