Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2008, $500,000)
The National Firearms Examiner Academy (NFEA) provides training for apprentice/entry-level firearm and toolmark examiners from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. During the early 1990's the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) developed a nationally recognized training program for entry level Firearm and Toolmark examiners. Advancing new technologies, increases in violent crime, and a limited number of qualified instructors close to retirement, emphasizes the acute need to meet the demand of trained examiners. The Academy curriculum is composed of the fundamentals of firearms and toolmark examinations and serves as a basis for the trainee, under supervision, to develop into a qualified Firearm and Toolmark examiner. This curriculum was developed in conjunction with the Association of Firearms and Toolmark Examiners (AFTE) and the content subjected to peer review by experts outside ATF. The applicability of the training provided to the students is continually monitored by the Academy Staff. Following completion of each of the 18 modules of instruction students complete written evaluations. The evaluations allow the staff to monitor whether the training is relevant to the students needs and/or adjust the content to address recent developments in the discipline. Some crime labs have developed in-house training programs with the usual accepted time frame of two years for training new examiners. The NFEA provides trainees with their crucial first year of training through a standardized curriculum. Since 1999 the Academy has trained and graduated seventy six examiners from thirty five states. As stated in the President's DNA Initiative, Advancing Justice through DNA Technology, the forensic science community has a critical need for trained forensic scientists in public crime laboratories. NIJ seeks to develop and deliver knowledge-based forensic science curricula at the State and local level. Enhancements or modifications to existing training programs for computer-based or Web-based delivery and dissemination of the product and sustainability of these initiatives are a priority. The Training and Professional Development Office of ATF will establish a working relationship with NIJ to enhance, modify and deliver firearm and toolmark examiner training to State and local public crime laboratory forensic science practitioners.