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Improving the Timeliness and Accuracy of Forensic Firearms Examinations at the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Awardee County
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2015, $175,000)

The Firearms Examiners Section of the CCSO is part of the Crime Scene Investigations Unit. The Firearms Examiners utilize evidence from crime scenes to match a weapon possible used in multiple crimes. When a firearm is recovered, it is test fired in a controlled environment and the test fires are entered into National Integrated Ballistic Identification Network (NIBIN) and IBIS (Integrated Ballistic Information System. The Firearms Examiner enters cartridge casing evidence into IBIS. Those images are correlated against a database within the region with the capabilities to expand nationwide. Information is cross referenced against earlier entries made by other agencies to potentially link the weapon to additional crimes and lead to more cases being solved. CCSO has had the IBIS since 1999 and has entered over 8,800 cases to date. An increase in Cumberland County's service population has increased the demand of CCSO and the Firearms Examination Section. The CCSO completes Firearms Examinations for 4 local agencies, 58 surrounding counties and agencies, and has serviced 6 out-of-state agencies. The Firearms Examination Sections continues to experience a high volume of cases, but without improved methods for firearms examination, there remains a significant backlog in the processing of this evidence. CCSO's current IBIS equipment is over 15 years old and will be obsolete effective December 31, 2015, rendering it unwarrantable. Using obsolete equipment could lead to invalid analysis and ballistics-based court testimony could be challenged, leading to offenders not being convicted. This could potentially allow violent offenders to remain on the streets to commit additional violent crimes. The latest generation IBIS equipment, which includes BRASSTRAX Acquisition Station and MATCHPOINT analysis station for cartridge cases, will greatly improve the timeliness and accuracy of forensic firearms examinations at the CCSO. As an extension of IBIS, BRASSTRAX provides greater levels of efficiency and raises the overall effectiveness of the
IBSI system. BRASSTRAX and MATCHPOINT equipment will also allow computerized collection and analysis, which will further improve accuracy. This equipment takes both two-dimensional (2D) and three-dimensional (3D) images of a bullet's surface and uses these images to analyze markings to identify the weapon it came from an/or match it to other bullets within the network. It supports a wide range of calibers and various weapons. The CCSO's current IBIS only allows for 2D images. The shift to the 2D/3D hybrid system greatly improves the analysis of bullets and accuracy overall, as bullets and weapons systems are ever evolving. Accuracy is critical in the handling of any forensic evidence. The new equipment will allow the CCSO to be on the same platform as the ATF, FBI, and other law enforcement agencies. This updated equipment is required to be fully integrated
with these agencies.


Date Created: September 22, 2015