Webinar presenter Mike Eberhardt and Pete Gagliardi answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Sustainable Crime Gun Intelligence Strategies Require Policy-Driven Tactics. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: Steve wants to know what is the status of the ATF Correlation Center in Huntsville?
Mike Eberhardt: I’m able probably to address it. I’ve just been out of the ATF and out as FOD Chief for three or four months now and I kind of keep up to date on it. They have a new facility in Huntsville. It’s really nice. It has room for expansion. They’re operating on about a hundred correlation review specialists now doing correlation reviews continually taking on new sites. As they expand, the employees down there are doing an amazing job. If you can go to the ATF public website and take at the look at some of the photos of the new correlation center, it’s really great. So it continues to expand, it’s funded, it’s going to continue to take on new sites as the expansion continues with obviously the hopes to be able to have the ability to take on every site, every operating NIBIN site in the country by the end of 2020.
Audience Question: We are seeing a lack of trust in NIBIN and many detectives want the extensive microscopic comparisons of evidence between various crime scenes due to NIBIN only being a presumptive result, not definitive. These tasks crime labs do not only meet ATF MROS requirements that have staffing available to handle microscopic comparative cases. How would you suggest educating detectives etc. to strengthen their faith in NIBIN leads and reduce multi-crime scene intercomparisons. Do you have any suggestions about potential policies?
Pete Gagliardi: I’ll take a stab at that. I would recommend that if the lab is asking the question that the lab sit down with its police counterparts and prosecutor counterparts, and initiate the discussion amongst the three major entities. Peel away the onion skin and find out what’s really at the heart of this. Are we dealing with a detectives perception, perhaps one or two that have loud voices and tend to speak on behalf of everyone? Is this really an issue? What should the policy be to balance the objectives like Michael said, to provide timely investigative leads to the police officers when we don’t even have a suspect yet, I don’t see why we’re so worried about getting so far down in the weeds about confirming a ballistics match unless we are ready to arrest and prosecute a suspect. There are three things that have to be in balance: people, processes and technology. The people leg of the stool is the hardest one to deal with. The only way to deal with it in today’s environment because of the cross-jurisdictional teamwork required is that the discussions like this have to take part amongst the cross-jurisdictional team.
Mike Eberhardt: I would add on to that just real quick. A drug suspect that has a positive Scott reagent drug test kit that gets clipped and goes to jail for that and then pleads guilty to it in three weeks–that sample probably would not go to the criminalist and probably shouldn’t go to the criminalist or if the charges were refused, it probably wouldn’t go to the criminalist and shouldn’t go to the criminalist. But the arrest and the investigative action took place on the presumptive Scott reagent drug test kit which does not have the same accuracy or a percentage that NIBIN has and so again as a conversation I think in education and understanding of what NIBIN is doing, how it’s doing it and how well it’s doing it.
Pete Gagliardi: I’d like to add to your answer Mike because of something you’ve said that really stimulated a thought. There have been many studies on the accuracy of the technology. Furthermore, it’s been consistently improved over the years and I think that by bringing the stakeholders together, they can get a sense from the users and the manufacturer as to the accuracy today. Just look at the accuracy that the ATF National Correlation Centre is having achieving with investigative leads and the IBIS technology. Last I heard is they were like 98 percent accuracy and above in terms of exhibits that actually did match when compared through traditional microscopy methods.
Mike Eberhardt: 99.6% Pete.
Pete Gagliardi: Exactly. It’s rising like every week. These are important statistics to be communicated and the only way you’re going to get them understood is by sitting down with the cross-jurisdictional team and all the major players including the 18 people from ATF that are going to give you those kinds of numbers.
Audience Question: Do the laws in New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada provide additional funding for the man-hours required to accomplish the stated goals?
Pete Gagliardi: Hopefully before that legislation was passed, there had been in-depth collaboration amongst the major stakeholders. In New Jersey, that did not happen. As a matter of fact, I think I was the one who was first to tell the New Jersey State Police that the law had been passed. That said, I worked extensively with the New Jersey State Police on this protocol. It’s amazing that they really didn’t need many new resources or significant levels of new funding to do what they do today – I don’t think they hired anyone. They might have transferred one resource from the Intelligence Division into the lab to be what they call a forensic intelligence officer to interface with the other police departments and crime labs whenever there was a NIBIN lead, to see if they needed any other forensic testing done, or communicate the results of any additional forensic testing performed. They did get another NIBIN machine from ATF. I believe they invested a small amount of money in some intelligence software to keep track of all the new information they were collecting. The good news here is that when you put these crime gun intelligence protocols in place, you are going to start collecting an enormous amount of new crime gun intelligence and the bad news is, you are going to start collecting an enormous amount of crime gun intelligence, you’re going to have to go back to your three-legged stool analogy. One way to balance your people and your processes is by adding some technology to make your people more efficient and your processes more sustainable. I know New Jersey acquired some intelligence software that they’re using but having said that, they didn’t need a lot more human resources. What they needed to do was change some of their internal policies that were actually holding them back. So they needed senior people involved in the discussions that had the authority to modify or rescind old policies and institute new ones. Now, that is not to say that the New Jersey experience is Delaware’s experience or Nevada’s experience or California’s or whomever. The bottom line is, when you’re thinking and acting together with all the right people from all the right places and you’re able to really have a collaborative discussion, sometimes you will find that in order to get where you want to go, you’ve got to buck up. The powers to be will have to buy something: Another person, a piece of technology, an investment in something to help achieve the objective. Sometimes, let’s not fool ourselves you may need to hire more people to get the job done. That may be the only way to balance that three-legged stool but it should never be the first card that you play. You try to balance your people, processes, and technology the best you can without adding people. When you can show the appropriators or the budget people that you tried your best to do that, but there’s still a gap in your capacity to get the job done in a timely manner, then you present a stronger case to fill that people gap and get the additional resources that you need.
Audience Question: Are the ATF Correlation Centers required to meet the MROS standards?
Mike Eberhardt: ATF Correlation Centers would, in the respect that they’re receiving images from the autocorrelation. They are not necessarily receiving. They’re not doing acquisitions. They are not receiving evidence to do acquisitions. So none of those–none of the MROS would obviously apply. What applies to them is that when it’s in their correlation queue, they’re doing it within 24-48 hours in disseminating it immediately within 24 hours. So MROS that do apply to them certainly, they are adherent of it.
Audience Question: Is there a communications policy for informing the right investigators? Should that be included in the MROS? Sustainability and communications is an issue, with recent turnovers in police investigators and administrators. Should we talk to communications policy in our overall crime gun intelligence policy and should that have been included in the MROS?
Pete Gagliardi: On a broad level, the answer is absolutely yes. There are a number of best practices out there for dealing with communications. A good one is to use the Federal Regional Information Sharing Systems® or RISS list-serve email list software — it’s free. In New Jersey, all of their Crime Gun Intelligence partners subscribed to the list-serve NIBIN communication distribution email, it is one way to make it easy to ensure that you’re getting the information out to the all right people in a timely manner. Another thing we did in New Jersey at the very beginning, when the new policies were being put in place, was to have four regional symposiums, strategically located across New Jersey where the major stakeholders, police prosecutors, and forensic teams were brought in. When I say the police I include detectives, first responders, CSI’s, etc. We put on four of these throughout the state of New Jersey to communicate the new policies. Communication is a continual issue that must be addressed. There are a number of best practices do it. The Phoenix PD developed a three-minute roll call video about the comprehensive collection of crime scene evidence and how it would be processed through E-trace in NIBIN. It was very effective, all they had to do is keep repeating it at every roll call session and rerun it over and over again. More best practices are contained in the reference materials and handouts that accompany this webinar. Take a look, I know that you also can see on your screens my contacts and Mike’s. We would be honored to take any questions or follow-ups from you guys offline and that we can give you the best advice we can. I’ll turn the MROS question over to Mike.
Mike Eberhardt: So if I understand it correctly and I hope that I do and so that I can address it, that MROS question is an interesting one and it comes up a lot about the MROS being laboratory or NIBIN centric, and it is. And what good is that if there’s no action on the lead or there’s no evidence coming in from the law enforcement agency timely, those are critical factors and ones that ATF and I think the Crime Gun Intelligence Governing Board decided to address in best practices over standardized objectives. The reason for that is because CODIS obviously has standards, NIBIN has standards. It’s very difficult to have a discussion with law enforcement agencies about policy and instituting policy over and setting objectives as a federal agency. It is a difficult thing. I feel for the NIBIN sites who have evidence coming in six weeks after recovery and who also are dealing with law enforcement agencies that aren’t following up on significant and clearly relevant leads and sometimes who are a part of the feedback process to let them know what the results are. I will say this, however, and I’ve been traveling around the country a lot for the last two or three years, most law enforcement agencies, most law enforcement departments are absolutely on board and moving towards, if not already at the place where they understand the MROS is putting some obligations on their laboratory and they have an obligation as well to cooperate and mention CGI policy on how it affects many different disciplines and jurisdictions. They understand and most, almost to a “T” everyone that I speak to, understands that either they get the information in, they have to send it quickly and act on it when it comes out. If it’s not, that’s unfortunate. I would be willing to bet that that’s short-lived. Most departments are moving towards as I said or are already there, acting quickly on the intelligence coming out of that process and moving evidence to the NIBIN site or the laboratory as quickly as possible.
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