Surveying practicing firearm examiners

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2022
Authors
Scurich, Nicholas
Garrett, Brandon L.
Thompson, Robert M.
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Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence
The Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence (CSAFE) carries out research on the scientific foundations of forensic methods, develops novel statistical methods and transfers knowledge and technological innovations to the forensic science community. We collaborate with more than 80 researchers and across six universities to drive solutions to support our forensic community partners with accessible tools, open-source databases and educational opportunities.
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A sample (n = 79) of practicing firearm and toolmark examiners was queried about casework as well as their views about the potential role that statistics might play in future firearm examinations and expert witness testimony. Principal findings include: The modal response for time spent conducting bullet examinations is 2–4 hours, and the modal response for cartridge casings is 1–2 hours. The average participant (median) makes an identification in 65% of casework, makes an elimination in 12% of casework, and reports that the examination was inconclusive in 20% of casework calls. The vast majority of examiners work at laboratories that permit eliminations when class characteristics agree. The reported industry-wide false positive error rate is 1%, though very few participants could name a study or give a citation for their reported estimate. Qualitative responses about the potential role of statistics were mixed.
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This article is published as Scurich, Nicholas, Brandon L. Garrett, and Robert M. Thompson. "Surveying practicing firearm examiners." Forensic science international: Synergy 4 (2022): 100228. doi:10.1016/j.fsisyn.2022.100228. Posted with permission of CSAFE. Works produced by employees of the U.S. Government as part of their official duties are not copyrighted within the U.S. The content of this document is not copyrighted.
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