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Forensic Optical Topography Working Group Meeting, March 17-18, 2015

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2015
28 pages

This report presents the proceedings and conclusions from the meeting of the Forensic Optical Topography Working Group (FOTWG) on March 17-18, 2015.


The overall objective of the FOTWG is to establish the validity and applicability of optical topography to forensic investigations and to produce publications or training materials that can be accessed by the entire forensic community. These materials are intended to guide practitioners on applications and recommendations for further research, development, and capacity assistance. The FOTWG focuses on optical topography instruments, methods, data systems, and analysis for ballistic and tool mark identification. At the March meeting, participants considered current technologies for optical topography, including the requirements for systems that may be deployed in crime laboratories. The extension of current ballistic identification methods to topographic methods was also examined. Participants noted the value of the comparison microscope for identification decisions in current practice and determined that it is unlikely that optical topography will supplant the comparison microscope as the primary tool for the forensic examiner in the near term. They believe optical topography is most likely to be a confirmatory tool or a method for examining difficult comparison cases. Participants reviewed current and past efforts to implement optical topography in the crime laboratory, including the application of confocal microscopy. These systems have demonstrated that optical topography may enable the examiner to distinguish among consecutively manufactured firearms; however, work remains to be done in establishing accepted examination protocols. Participants agreed on holding a practical review of examination methods at the FBI Laboratory, which has several optical topography instruments. 6 figures, 2 tables, a 6-item bibliography, and a listing of meeting attendees

Date Published: April 1, 2015