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Author Topic: Request from my lab's quality manager  (Read 15794 times)

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Offline Kate Millar

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Request from my lab's quality manager
« on: August 02, 2016, 02:37:27 PM »
 Hello Everyone,
Our laboratory does not receive many toolmark cases (typically 5-10 cases per year) and we are discussing whether or not to suspend this type of testing. As we research this possibility, I would like to identify other labs that may have more experience in this area. Im looking for two things

1) an agency with experienced examiners that could provide an outside opinion on various matters (if we continue providing this service) and

2) labs that we could refer our customers to for this type of analysis if we drop this analysis permanently.

Would you please reply to the following questions? Responses can also be sent off-line to erin.henry@osbi.ok.gov.
How many examiners are qualified to perform toolmark comparisons in your lab/agency?
Is your laboratory accredited in this area? By whom?
How many toolmark cases does your agency work, on average, per year?
Would your agency be willing to work cases from agencies outside your normal jurisdiction either as fee-for-service or in accordance with a memorandum of understanding with another agency? If fee-for-service, what would the estimated cost be (per item or case)?
Would your agency be willing to consult/assist on various matters (e.g. external TR, questions regarding best practices, etc)?
Thanks to all for your help!
 
Kate Millar
Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation
Edmond, Oklahoma
405-715-9524
kate.millar@osbi.ok.gov

Offline Bob Shem

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Re: Request from my lab's quality manager
« Reply #1 on: August 02, 2016, 05:34:20 PM »
Hi Kate,


I don't know how you can separate toolmarks from firearms, seeing that what we examine under the scope are either impressed toolmarks or striated toolmarks.  A firearm is a specialized tool, or more correctly a collection of tools that mark softer materials.


I'd say continue on with the examinations.  If you can match a firing pin impression you can match a pry bar impression.  If you can match a bullet you can match the sliding pry marks made by a flat blade screwdriver.  It's all the same.  It's just that the tools look a bit different.


As for the number of toolmark cases done per year, I would argue that every time I match a bullet or cartridge case I have just completed a toolmark case.  Most every firearm case is a toolmark case (except function tests, etc.)


There is no reason to be accredited in "two" areas, Toolmarks and Firearms, because it truly is one area of expertise.

« Last Edit: August 02, 2016, 05:46:59 PM by Bob Shem »
Robert J. Shem, 4900 Buckingham Way., Anchorage, AK  99503, ph 907 952-2254, bobshem@alaskan.com

Offline Aaron Brudenell

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Re: Request from my lab's quality manager
« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2016, 06:40:20 PM »
Generally I agree with Bob but have a few additional thoughts on this:

1-Accredited labs are still free to do work that's off their scope of accreditation as long as they don't misrepresent such in their lab reports.

2-A lab could carve it out as a specified sub-discipline and only assign such cases to certain individuals with the necessary (and equally specified) training and appropriate sign off, peer review, etc..

3-Just as certain items like GSR and fracture matching can go under different headings in a lab structure (e.g.-Trace, Firearms, Comparative Analysis), non-firearm related tool mark cases could be separated as a category.
Aaron Brudenell
Firearm Examiner
Arizona Dept. of Public Safety
520-746-4644

Offline Julie Knapp

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Re: Request from my lab's quality manager
« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2016, 10:01:11 AM »
I also agree with Bob, we are toolmark examiners; it's just the majority of what we do involves firearms so it has to be in our title :) But to answer your questions:
 
 How many examiners are qualified to perform toolmark comparisons in your lab/agency? 3 out of 4

Is your laboratory accredited in this area? By whom? yes, ASCLD-ISO
How many toolmark cases does your agency work, on average, per year? outside of firearm cases, we probably do between 10 to 15 a year statewide (We work the entire state of Colorado)
Would your agency be willing to work cases from agencies outside your normal jurisdiction either as fee-for-service or in accordance with a memorandum of understanding with another agency? If fee-for-service, what would the estimated cost be (per item or case)?  This is something I am not sure of the answer.  I would have to refer you to a manager, but at the time, I would say no.  We have too large of a back log and not enough examiners - if anyone good out there is looking for a job...
Would your agency be willing to consult/assist on various matters (e.g. external TR, questions regarding best practices, etc)?  We are here to help in any way we can.  We can share SOPs, talk you through something you are unfamiliar with, but I would also stress that you can do that with the entire AFTE family.  I frequently do it, in fact, I just worked a toolmark case where I called Charles Clow on because I wanted some advice on dealing with bones (he gets a lot of strange toolmark cases).  I haven't seen many of these type of cases in my career so it is always good to have a sounding board.
 
« Last Edit: August 03, 2016, 11:19:27 AM by Jay Stuart »

Offline Greg Laskowski

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Re: Request from my lab's quality manager
« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2016, 11:05:46 AM »
Echoing Bob, I would like to go a step further.  Why is a quality manager deciding what casework the firearms and tool mark section is going to perform when these types of examinations were and are part of that section's overall mission?  Is the discipline now under control of outside interests that it must seek permission to perform its stated duties.  This is indeed a sad state of affairs.  I rue the future of next generation of forensic scientists. :'(
Gregory E. Laskowski
President/Chief Consultant
Criminalistics Services International, LLC
8021 Dottie Court
Bakersfield, CA
661 747-2961
crimservintllc@outlook.com

Offline Justine Kreso

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Re: Request from my lab's quality manager
« Reply #5 on: August 03, 2016, 12:34:50 PM »
While it's all fine and good to say that "it's the same thing" ASCLD/LAB does consider it a separate subdiscipline/category of testing.  So you do need sufficient casework examples to stay accredited in toolmarks. 
Justine Kreso
Onondaga County Center for Forensic Sciences
Syracuse, NY

Offline Chris Monturo

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Re: Request from my lab's quality manager
« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2016, 01:11:29 PM »
So does AFTE, as I assume by having a separate Firearm and Toolmark certification.
Please check out http://www.precisionforensictesting.com  for lab supplies

Offline Greg Laskowski

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Re: Request from my lab's quality manager
« Reply #7 on: August 03, 2016, 01:13:27 PM »
I suppose that just doing the yearly proficiency tests in the discipline area is insufficient to warrant continuing performing such examinations according to ASCLD/LAB.  Wow, what would happen if there were a serious curtailment in crime in a given jurisdiction, would that argue then that the lab should be closed down because it could not meet some caseload number threshold?
Gregory E. Laskowski
President/Chief Consultant
Criminalistics Services International, LLC
8021 Dottie Court
Bakersfield, CA
661 747-2961
crimservintllc@outlook.com

Offline Dwight Deskins

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Re: Request from my lab's quality manager
« Reply #8 on: August 03, 2016, 04:01:42 PM »
This is quite an interesting discussion.  So would the terms "Forensic Footwear Analyst" and "Forensic Tire Analyst" be interchangeable?

Personally, I believe Firearm and Toolmark cases represent different specialty areas.  Certainly the comparison instrumentation and reasoning processes to make an identification are the same, exactly like the comparison of forensic impression evidence (shoes/tires).  But all the steps and considerations leading up to comparative analysis, such as safety precautions and competence in producing test standards, require very different knowledge and skills.     

So a driver's license should apply to anything with wheels (motorcycle, car, 18 wheel rig)?  I don't think so. 

Just my 2 cents   : :angel:
Dwight Deskins
KSP Eastern Regional Crime Laboratory
1550 Wolohan Drive - Suite 2
Ashland, KY 41102
(606)929-9142
FAX - (606)929-9364
dwight.deskins@ky.gov

Offline Chris Monturo

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Re: Request from my lab's quality manager
« Reply #9 on: August 03, 2016, 05:07:16 PM »
Firearm examiners are responsible for more than just matching bullets/cartridge cases.  Firearm examiners are expected to have a strong understanding of the mechanics of the firearm, interaction of the parts, and other nuances that I could spend hours typing.

Whereas, toolmark examiners are expected to know a different set of parameters associated with the source of the mark.

I would not expect someone who is only trained in toolmarks to know the difference between short recoil and blow back, nor would I expect a person only trained in firearms to know the difference between a pinching tool vs. a shearing tool.

I think it comes down to titling someone an "Examiner" vs. "Comparer" (which according to my spell check isn't a word)  :D
Please check out http://www.precisionforensictesting.com  for lab supplies

Offline Jill Therriault

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Re: Request from my lab's quality manager
« Reply #10 on: August 04, 2016, 07:37:21 AM »
While it's all fine and good to say that "it's the same thing" ASCLD/LAB does consider it a separate subdiscipline/category of testing.  So you do need sufficient casework examples to stay accredited in toolmarks.

This is true.  My lab just underwent its ASCLD/LAB inspection in May.  My unit (well, 2 of us) does toolmarks and has recently adopted GSR/DD from another unit.  At the time of inspection, I had done exactly one case in each of those disciplines.  It was determined during the audit that we did not have enough recent casework to be deemed accredited in those two categories.  That is not to say that we cannot conduct those types of analyses going forward...just means that we can't say we have accreditation in those particular disciplines.  It wasn't a managerial/administrative decision, it was ASCLD/LAB's.
Jill R. Therriault It's pronounced "Terry-o"  :)
New Hampshire State Police Forensic Laboratory
33 Hazen Drive
Concord, NH  03305

Offline Alison Quereau

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Re: Request from my lab's quality manager
« Reply #11 on: August 04, 2016, 08:24:00 AM »
From the AFTE Bylaws preamble:


In that year they formed the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners, recognizing that firearm and toolmark identification, though involving similar disciplines, requires separate and distinct basic knowledge.


This has also been been on the back of every Journal printed since 2001.



Alison Quereau
Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office Crime Lab
West Palm Beach, FL

Offline Ryan Kent

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Re: Request from my lab's quality manager
« Reply #12 on: August 04, 2016, 09:04:41 AM »
As someone who recently took the training to be an ASCLD/LAB assessor I will say that I would be hard pressed to tell another laboratory that they cannot be accredited in a certain category of testing based solely on the amount of casework they have conducted in that category.  In my opinion, as long as you have policies and procedures and employees who have taken and passed competency and/or proficiency testing as required by accreditation and are thus authorized to perform casework, I don't see any reason why those categories of testing cannot be under the accreditation. However, I will say in response to some other comments that being accredited is voluntary and if you don't like it maybe it isn't for you.  But when you or your management decide that that is something to be a part of, unfortunately you have to abide by those rules.  Just like anything else.

Offline Nat Pearlson

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Re: Request from my lab's quality manager
« Reply #13 on: August 04, 2016, 11:12:01 AM »
Regarding the initial question:  Our lab has, on a few occasions, entered into MOUs to assist other labs - this has been for training, verifications, reviews, etc.  The administrators would have to talk to make this happen.  We currently have three examiners qualified in toolmark analysis and another in training. We're accredited by ASCLD/LAB-International.  I don't have numbers in front of me, but we probably work a dozen toolmark cases in a normal year.  I would be happy to discuss casework with another examiner and I'm sure the other examiners here would too.  I don't know about private/fee for service labs.

Regarding the comments on accreditation, based on my experience as an assessor over the last eight years: Having procedures in place and people authorized to do work is only part of the equation in assessing a lab for accreditation.  There has to be objective evidence that they are actually doing work that complies with their procedures and assessment criteria.  If there is no/insufficient casework to assess, I don't see how you can say a lab is compliant.  That's not a judgment on their capabilities if they actually did casework, but just the way it works - like asking if a pistol fired a bullet you have, but not having the pistol to examine.  If your lab  can't pull together a handful of cases from the last few years/accreditation cycle in any given category of testing then your lab may need to evaluate if it is really a service that needs to be offered.

My two cents.

Nat

Online Chris Gunsolley

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Re: Request from my lab's quality manager
« Reply #14 on: August 05, 2016, 07:15:40 PM »
If there is no/insufficient casework to assess, I don't see how you can say a lab is compliant.  ... If your lab  can't pull together a handful of cases from the last few years/accreditation cycle in any given category of testing then your lab may need to evaluate if it is really a service that needs to be offered.

There really appears to be no hard and fast rule on this.  What is sufficient for some inspectors is insufficient for others.  Case in point...  Here in Mesa we are accredited for both categories of testing - Firearms and Toolmarks.  On the toolmark side, we've completed four toolmark cases in the last five years (and 12 proficiency tests).  It seems like with each accreditation cycle, there is a conversation about that number.  I'm not in the room during that conversation so I don't know what it sounds like but in the end, we've always received that toolmark accreditation. 

To Kate's original question:

How many examiners are qualified to perform toolmark comparisons in your lab/agency? 2
Is your laboratory accredited in this area? By whom? ASCLD/LAB
How many toolmark cases does your agency work, on average, per year? 1
Would your agency be willing to work cases from agencies outside your normal jurisdiction either as fee-for-service or in accordance with a memorandum of understanding with another agency? Probably not

 

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