After determining it is neither feasible nor fiscally responsible to currently implement a U.S. National Footwear Database (NFD) system, this study presents recommendations for progressive, short-term solutions to current limitations in exploiting footwear information in the United States to benefit all law enforcement.
Through an inter-agency agreement with the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Laboratory Division (FBI Laboratory) completed a comprehensive, 3-year study known as the National Footwear Database Evaluation. The purpose of this study was to determine the feasibility of developing and implementing a national footwear database (NFD) system for U.S. law enforcement to generate criminal intelligence using footwear evidence and information. A second objective was to determine if an NFD could serve as a tool to forensic science researchers by providing an essential source of footwear data. The results of the FBI Laboratory's study are summarized in five conclusions and three recommendations. The authors of this report determined that the U.S. is not ready to implement a national footwear database system today. However, through acting on the recommendations and addressing the findings reported here, it is possible that the U.S. law enforcement community can transition the outcomes of this evaluation into practice and implement regional footwear intelligence programs (pilots) that will set the stage for a national program in the future. It is possible that future operational footwear databases could provide a source of data for researchers, but the extent to which the data can transfer from operations to research may be limited given privacy concerns and law enforcement sensitivities.