In this article, a hypothetical case example is presented to illustrate and analyze how forensic particle analysis can be used as a powerful practical tool in forensic investigations.
The specifics in this example - including the casework investigation, laboratory analyses, and close professional interactions - provide focal points for subsequent analysis of how this outcome can be achieved. This leads to the specification of five key elements that are deemed necessary and sufficient for effective forensic particle analysis: (1) a dynamic forensic analytical approach, (2) concise and efficient protocols addressing particle combinations, (3) multidisciplinary capabilities of analysis and interpretation, (4) readily accessible external specialist resources, and (5) information integration and communication. An effective trace evidence capability is defined as one that exploits all useful particle types, chooses appropriate technologies to do so, and directly integrates the findings with case-specific problems. Limitations of current approaches inhibit the attainment of an effective capability, and it has been strongly argued that a new approach to trace evidence analysis is essential. A coordinating role, absent in current approaches to trace evidence analysis, is essential to achieving these elements; however, the level of expertise required for the coordinating role is readily attainable. Some additional laboratory protocols are also essential; however, none of these has greater staffing requirements than those routinely met by existing forensic trace evidence practitioners. The major challenges that remain are organizational acceptance, planning, and implementation. (publisher abstract modified)