This special-release episode in the National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ’s) Just Science podcast series is an interview with Nicole Jones - the Director of the Forensic Science Translation and Implementation Program in the Center for Forensic Sciences at RTI International – and John Grassel – a Program Manager in RTI’s Center for Forensic Sciences and Co-Director of the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE) – who discuss toolmark analysis and advanced capabilities in firearms.
The FTCoE supports the implementation of innovative technologies that address the challenges faced by the forensic science community. An example of an emerging technology the FTCoE evaluates is 3-D imaging technology for firearm and toolmark examination. This interview with Jones and Grassel addresses the work FTCoE performs in addressing firearm violence, how evidence is collected from a firearm, and the FTCoE’s upcoming Firearm and Toolmarks Policy and Practice Forum on January 11-14, 2022. The professional backgrounds of Jones and Grassel are first reviewed, which indicates they have been involved in cutting-edge, technology-driven efforts to support basic and applied research pertinent to the criminal justice and forensic science communities. They note that 3D imaging technologies for firearm and toolmark examination is just one example of emerging technology that FTCoE has facilitated. They note that one of the topics that will be discussed at the Firearm and Toolmark Policy and Practice Forum is a recent black-box study conducted by the FBI in cooperation with AMES Laboratory. This study on firearm and toolmarks centered on accuracy, repeatability, and reproducibility. The interview also addresses the work of the FBI’s Technical Working Group for 3D Toolmark Technologies, which was established to support and promote the advancement of the forensic application of 3D optical topography instruments. The interview then focuses on some challenges in promoting an advanced firearm and toolmark analysis.