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Firearms Examiner Training

Case Assignment

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Case Assignment

Examination assignment
Examination assignment
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Based on laboratory protocols, the designated laboratory personnel initially reviews the evidence submission documentation and determines the type of evidence and examinations required.

These protocols determine

  • the hub of the chain of custody for this evidence submission,
  • the decision-maker for the distribution of the evidence,
  • the sequence of examinations for each evidence item,
  • the assignment of examinations to particular examiners.

Evidence Distribution

The person who breaks the seal on the evidence container and distributes the evidence

  • becomes the hub of the chain of custody within the laboratory,
  • is responsible for appropriate sequencing of examinations,
  • should be aware of the possible implications of biological and trace evidence.

There are two commonly used approaches to evidence distribution:

  • Centralized system
  • Examiner based system

Centralized System

A laboratory manager or trained individual within the evidence-receiving or evidence-control organization

  • breaks the seal on the container,
  • determines the types of examinations required,
  • coordinates the distribution of evidence with the appropriate discipline area for assignment to examiner(s).

Examiner-Based System

Based on laboratory protocol, a laboratory manager or supervisor typically assigns each evidence submission to an examiner within a particular forensic discipline. The assignment is determined based upon the nature of the case and the documented type of evidence.

Upon breaking the seal on the container, the examiner acts as the hub of the chain of custody within the laboratory and is responsible for

  • distributing evidence,
  • sequencing examinations,
  • identifying significant examinations that were not requested.

In the examiner-based system, the firearm/toolmark examiner reviews all evidence in a given submission. The examiner is expected to exercise management skill, knowledge, and decision-making expertise.

This approach requires that the examiner is generally familiar with the forensic capabilities of the laboratory.

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