The document below details guidelines for creating and enforcing protocols for firearm and toolmark evidence examination in forensic laboratories. Any guidelines listed are intended to provide proper and professional access to standard firearm and toolmark examination processes, as well as proper technique to handle evidence. Regulations should be laid out for the proper function of evidence evaluation, reporting and testimonies. The forensic laboratory’s goal should be to provide high quality standards in all of these areas for any personnel performing firearm and tooling evidence examinations.
Material Safety Data Sheet
Material safety data sheets should be documented and recorded for every chemical used with firearms and toolmarks. Strict regulation and supervision of chemicals ensures the safety of all personnel, as well as avoids damage to any evidence. All chemical in the forensic lab should be recorded and accounted for on a regular basis to avoid loss or damages. National and international laws need to be enforced and followed for the proper handling and storage of chemicals, biohazards, supplies and explosive materials. Proper disposal laws must also be strictly enforced to ensure the safety of the general public and the facility.
All government laws pertaining to the environment and public health need to be plainly stated in the forensic lab manuals, and they should be easy to access by all personnel. All personnel in firearms and toolmarks should be fully trained and tested on these laws before utilizing any evidence or equipment in the forensic laboratory.
Any forensic laboratory must assess and lay out a full job description for every personnel position. The job description should list, in detail, the responsibilities, qualifications and experience needed for the position. Qualifications for firearms and toolmark examination personnel should include a proper education pertaining to the position. In most cases, this require a Bachelor degree from a four-year school. Qualifications may also require certifications and field experience before joining the forensic lab. All new personnel should also be required to undergo training for an amount of time specified by the forensic laboratory. The training program should be fully documented, and records on education level, past experience, technical skills and any other training should be well-maintained.
Any new experience the firearms and toolmark personnel acquires should be swiftly documented. It is advised that the forensic lab encourage any and all personnel to seek continuing education in the field though seminars, training courses or professional literature.
Any and all personnel in firearms and toolmarks at the forensic laboratory should take a proficiency test based on their area of discipline. Proficiency tests are used to maintain and regulate the expertise of the staff, and it ensures that all information on firearms and toolmarks is updated and fresh. Any regulations or standards on proficiency tests, set in place by the forensic laboratory, should be strictly enforced. The frequency of any given proficiency test is decided by the forensic lab; however, it is advised that proficiency tests be given at least annually.
If any failure to comply or discrepancies occur during proficiency testing, the forensic laboratory should follow an established protocol to take corrective action. This may include re-testing personnel, retraining personnel, or terminating the personnel’s positions, if necessary.
Testing Effectiveness of Procedures
New procedures or protocol set in place by the forensic lab should be put through a validity test before using in the forensic lab as an established standard. This is to ensure the accuracy and effectiveness of any new procedures and to avoid mishaps in protocol.
When a new procedure is decided by the forensic lab, it should be fully documented in a formal report. The formal documentation should then go under peer review by a group of forensic professionals to decide the validity of the procedure. Once the procedure had been approved by personnel, it can be utilized in its designated area amongst all staff it pertains to.
Firearms and Toolmarks Evidence
Handling evidence by personnel in firearms and toolmarks requires a strict set of rules and regulations that should be followed precisely. Only experienced personnel should be allowed to handle firearms and toolmarks evidence in the forensic lab. Any regulations laid out by the forensic lab should be put in place to control access to any evidence. This ensures evidence is under safe supervision at all times, and it cannot be tampered with or damaged. Amongst the regulation standards should be rules on properly containing and labeling any evidence, recording any contact with evidence, and properly storing and accessing the evidence.
Handling Forensic Laboratory Equipment
All equipment used in the forensic lab should be approved and certified as appropriate equipment to be used in its designated are of study. The forensic lab should discuss and agree upon a set of guidelines for regularly calibrating and recording all use of equipment. It is suggested that the forensic lab requires all equipment to be calibrated and tested before each use, as well as be tested on a monthly or bi-monthly basis to ensure it is functioning at full capacity. Before adding any additional regulations, the forensic lab must comply with any international and national laws regarding any specific equipment.
Any equipment in the forensic lab should only be operated by approved personnel with clearance to utilize said equipment. Personnel should be fully trained and pass rigorous testing before gaining access to any equipment use.
Safety Goals of the Laboratory
The main goal of the forensic lab should be to ensure the safety of all personnel and the facility. It is of upmost importance to provide all personal with accessible information on safety regulations, as well as to provide proper training on safety guidelines. Safety protocols are set in place to minimize contamination and to avoid any malfunctioning equipment. The forensic lab should maintain a controlled environment that limits access to all evidence and equipment. This ensures not only the safety of al personnel, but theft, as well.
All routine examinations on firearms and toolmarks should be plainly described and laid out in the forensic lab manuals. All personnel should fully comprehend and be able to perform all routine examinations. Proper protocol will be laid out by the forensic lab. Each protocol for every routine examination will describe the proper equipment and tools needed to perform the examination, the steps for performing the examination, and any pre or post-examination steps required. General guidelines for analyzing or interpreting data and their references should be provided in some form. A list of safety guidelines should also accompany every routine examination protocol.
Personnel performing routine examinations in the forensic lab should only use the procedures and regulations that have been deemed valid by the forensic lab.
Verifying Examination Conclusions
Any conclusions made by firearms and toolmarks personnel, after performing routine examinations, should undergo an evaluation to determine the validity of the conclusion. Tests for validity should be agreed upon by forensic lab personnel and approved through peer review. These tests may include comparisons of evidence or past examinations, serial number restorations, and distance determinations. Only personnel that have been properly trained should be allowed to perform a validity test on an examination conclusion. Any rules or regulations for performing the validity tests should be laid out in the forensic lab manuals, and the personnel must comply with only the forensic lab’s protocol.
When selecting an examination case for review and certification, personnel must also follow a strict protocol to avoid bias or misuse of power. Proper procedures for this process should be regularly maintained and updated by the forensic lab. Any personnel performing a verification test must fully document their work and any contact with the case.
Reporting Conclusion Results
Any case that has been analyzed and tested for validity needs to be fully documented by personnel for the forensic lab’s records. The forensic laboratory should list a set of rules or protocol for properly documenting any analyzation or testing, and all firearms and toolmark personnel should be fully trained and tested on this protocol. The goal of the forensic lab’s protocol for reporting conclusion results is to ensure the examining personnel have been reasonable and have performed without bias. Any reported results cannot include theories that have not been tested or any claims made beyond scientific knowledge. The results can only be supported by evidence from the specific examination they pertain to.
Every report on conclusion validity that is recorded shall be documented by a qualified personnel, and It should include the scope of the review chosen, a guidelines followed to perform the review, how the review will be documented, and any discrepancies that may have been discovered.
After the conclusion validity review is documented, it should undergo a second review by another qualified personnel. This is considered a peer review, and it is intended to ensure the initial reviewer followed all protocol and did not perform the review under any form of bias or lack of knowledge.
All approved results from validated examinations will be conveyed in a testimony, which will be regulated by the forensic lab. The forensic lab will create a set of guidelines on how to formerly create a testimony of validated examination of evidence. The forensic laboratory should regularly maintain all records made and any corrective action that has been documented.