Webinar presenters Jason Brando, John Romeo, Jeff Goudeau and Ron Nichols answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Initiating or Enhancing Your Regional Preventive Crime Gun Strategy: The Most Important Thing Is… Here are some of their responses.
Audience Question: When involving other personnel for firearms examination, have any of you run into unique communications challenges once you have multiple personnel involved in that examination? If so, how did you overcome some of those issues?
Jeff Goudeau: We've had only a few instances when maybe there were some communication issues, but what actually made it easier is that when the case got into the firearms examiner's hand, they had a person that they can talk to. We see them every week, so we have their cellphone [numbers], we know them, and we know they're gonna be back next week. There are times when they can actually be the solution to the burden that we see in communication.
So I would say that the communication challenges didn't increase any more than they would have, had only one person been involved. It helps that we have the lines of communications with our customers, that's what has helped some of the pre-existing communication difficulties. I hope that answered the question.
Audience Question: Regarding smaller agencies, do you have suggestions on how smaller agencies might be able to implement a program very similar to the things you've done in your agencies, especially if they currently don't have the funds for the equipment or personnel.
John Romeo: The approach that we took was at least getting the agency's feet wet with the test-firing of their own guns. That takes a lot less monetarily and manpower-wise and it does still create a huge efficiency if you don't have to completely work up the gun, and or necessarily travel to testify in those cases. We look at that as putting your toe in the water which then usually leads your leadership to want to investigate more and that's the approach Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and Jason Brando took here. And they were just one of the agencies that were really aggressive on expanding on that and eventually getting BRASSTRAX themselves.
Ron Nichols: Whoever you send your evidence to for forensic examination, if they're part of the NIBIN program, it would be possible partnering with them, to ask them how you can be more active as a local agency in partnering with the NIBIN program through that forensic laboratory.
Audience Question: Where does the funding come from for WAE (When Actually Employed) personnel?
Jeff Goudeau: That's a mechanism that we didn't know existed, that our department had that comes out of the overall Louisiana State Police budget. Basically, it's a way that when you need help, but you can't afford to hire a full-time person, it's a way to kind of get around that. The only way I can answer that is that funding was approved by our superintendent through general funds.
Audience Question: When budgeting for a local agency NIBIN program, what are some of the expenses that a planner might miss when trying to establish the budget for a grant or a local agency funding?
Jason Brando: When we first started, we really didn't know what we're getting ourselves into. All that we knew was the price of the equipment, the price of the warranty each year. When you talk about ammunition, you're gonna do test fires so you need earplugs, earmuffs. You have the buildout of your shoot room if you guys decide to do it indoor range versus an outdoor range. You have the HEPA filters, the lead-free soap. You're talking about things that we didn't really think about other than, "okay, we just need to test fire and put it into the system'". Other expenses like that, we really didn't think into. Of course, the microscopes, there are various types that you can purchase – stereo or comparison microscope. We've learned, you gotta get a water tank, a different type of comparison microscope.
Audience Question: What policies did you end up changing to allow you to get your backlog down but still abide by ISO 17025?
John Romeo: The biggest obstacle for us was quite frankly getting our leadership to realize the difference between a full-fledged analytical case and an intelligence case. We did change some of our case acceptance policies. On majority of the changes, we had to make was how do we still account for the work if for example, no evidence is submitted to us but all we're doing is looking at the images for an agency. We developed a plan to still manually take in those cases within our LIMS system so that we can do that. Some agencies would email us their worksheets and we would manually intake from there. So most of the SOP changes were on how to account for work, how to track it, and modifications when you're not actually receiving evidence, you're just looking at images.
Audience Question: There's been some discussion on whether or not NIBIN belongs within the accreditation program. I'm wondering if you can share insights about the advantages and disadvantages or some of the benefits and non-benefits of being part of that accreditation program.
Jeff Goudeau: I think that one of the advantages to having it in there is that if you do get called to testify on a case where it is just a test fire and NIBIN entry, it is done in the accredited world. I'm still doing some research and I'm not made up 100% of a decision on whether or not I would like it to be in or out. I think some of the advantages to taking it out are I think that anytime you're working in the accreditation world, there are certain rules for database entries and the reporting of them that you have to follow. Long story short, I'm not sure.
But I would say that if it's something that you can explore, no more often than we go to court — and I think John mentioned it earlier. Just the intelligence cases are very very low chances of going to court. It's when they turn into a firearms comparison case that you have the chance of going to court. I think looking at how often that's happening will kind of give you that answer in your jurisdiction.
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