As submitted by the applicant: What good is a quality result if it takes too long to obtain? What good is a timely result if it is not of sufficient quality? In forensic science the challenge that faces laboratory directors is how to ensure both efficient and effective results for our customers. This challenge can be particularly daunting for the Firearms and Tool Marks discipline. The comparison of shell casings and bullets under a comparison microscope is a tedious operation. Not only is the actual procedure time-consuming and disruptive to the workflow, but the lack of objective criteria for drawing a conclusion results in an overly complex decision process that makes the process even less efficient. It should be noted that the current practice of using a comparison microscope for Firearms and Tool Marks analysis has been in place since 1925, and over the last ninety-plus years there have not been any significant technological advances to the process beyond transitioning from a monocular eyepiece to a binocular eyepiece and making improvements to illumination. While significant research has been done on digital imaging, with the primary focus being on 3D topography, the implementation of that technology in the crime laboratory for Firearms and Tool Marks casework has not been realized. This project takes advantage of a unique set of shell casing and bullet collections available to the Maryland State Police Forensic Sciences Division (MSP-FSD) to evaluate the potential advantages of the Vision X comparison microscope compared to a traditional comparison microscope. The benefits to be evaluated include:
Whether the digital imaging features of the Vision X technology allow for significant improvements in the sharing, among the Firearms and Tool Marks community, of class characteristic data associated with shell casings and bullets from specific firearms.
Whether the digital imaging features of the Vision X technology allow for significant improvements in the sharing, among the Firearms and Tool Marks examiners within a crime laboratory, of comparison data associated with shell casings and bullets from casework for the purpose of verifying conclusions.
Whether the adoption of the Vision X technology can result in the Firearms and Tool Marks community learning to trust digital images more and not rely solely on visual observations, thus bridging a key gap in the acceptance and implementation of 3D technology in practice.
Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law.