Written by Pete
A BLOGGER NAMED RAY GUIDETTI recently posted an article entitled: “Foiling a Cops & Lobsters Perception: Through
Technology, Transparency & Trust”.
Guidetti, a former state trooper, now works as a public safety change agent at
Motorola Solutions. He retired a couple years back from the New Jersey State
Police as the Deputy Superintendent of Investigations. He remains a true friend
of law enforcement and believes, as many others do, that it takes a balance of
people, processes, and technology to
sustain an effective, intelligence-led policing effort (Gagliardi 2019).
“Peeling” back the
pages of history
In a clever way, Guidetti’s
article walks the reader back through some old and well-established principles
of policing espoused by Sir Robert Peel. Known generally as the father of modern
policing, Peel established the London Metropolitan Police Force in 1829. Guidetti writes
that Peel’s basic premise in policing was that the “police are the public and
that the public are the police.”
Peel’s biggest challenge
in London almost two centuries ago remains a very serious issue facing police everywhere
today: ensuring that his “Bobbies” earned and maintained the public’s trust.
As pointed out in the article,
Peel knew that mutual respect between the police and the community is forever
rooted in transparency and accountability. “Peel’s Principles” were propagated
from these roots.
The article juxtaposes the
perceptions of distrust of police in the 1800s with the potential of reinforcing
trust in the police through transparency, enhanced by the technology of today.
Guidetti sums things up
with a recognition shared by many that “today’s technologies can bring more
objectivity and precision to policing in terms of generating the accurate and
unbiased information needed to identify and stop the types of criminals that
society is most concerned about.”
It’s fair to say that crimes
in which criminals use firearms to commit robbery, assault, and murder sit high
on anyone’s crimes-of-concern list.
In terms of trust, shouldn’t
you be able to trust that the police have covered the same standard set of best
practice “bases” in trying to solve your case as they did for the other guy’s?
As in most things in
life, developing a proper balance of critical elements is key. For example, research
(Maguire 2016) has shown that the adoption of new people, processes, and technology
can have a “rapid and substantial increase in productivity” in the generation of
actionable crime gun intelligence (CGI) from the trail of evidence that
armed criminals leave behind (Gagliardi 2018).
Three technology systems
are the basic building blocks of CGI:
1. ATF’s Electronic
Tracing System (eTrace)
“eTrace” is a paperless
and secure web-based platform available to law enforcement to initiate and
access the results of a crime-gun trace. Users of eTrace can monitor their
traces’ progress and retrieve completed trace results in a real-time
environment. The eTrace platform also allows an agency to search the historical
database of its firearm trace-related data and generate statistical reports.
2. ATF’s National
Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN)
NIBIN is a national
database containing digital images of cartridge cases and fired bullets that
were collected from crime scenes or test fired from confiscated weapons. Networks
like NIBIN can share critical data quickly across widely separated geographical
regions. For example, a firearm that has been seized for cause during a routine
car stop in one city can potentially be linked to a murder or series of murders
that occurred in a different city, miles away. Furthermore, fired evidence
collected at one crime scene can be linked to another crime or a series of previous
systems utilize acoustic sensors placed strategically around a defined area to
immediately pinpoint and record the sounds and locations of gunfire, and then dispatch
law enforcement to the site of confirmed gunfire. These technologies help
bridge information gaps caused by the public not reporting shots fired. These systems
can also be more accurate in pinpointing the actual location of gunshots than
the human ear because of various physical and environmental factors that can
affect a person’s perception of the direction from which a sound emanated.
“No man is an
island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the
main…” —John Donne, 17th Century English Poet
and Technology: A CGI Perspective
It’s easy to see that the
words of the poet John Donne hold true for every part of our criminal justice system,
considering what it takes for crime solving today. For example, a successful
firearm crime investigation takes a well-coordinated and collaborative team
involving local, state, and federal law enforcement; forensic experts; and
prosecutors. All members of this team are critical in managing the many “handshakes
and handoffs” of data and information that it takes to successfully identify, apprehend,
and convict the perpetrator (Guidetti et al 2016).
When thinking about the
words people, processes, and technology in the context of
collecting, processing, and disseminating actionable CGI, perhaps the terms cross-jurisdictional
teamwork, policy-driven tactics, and layered and leveraging technologies
more clearly represent what is most important.
Teamwork is critical and
necessary for success. From the crime scene, to the forensic lab, to the detectives
and intelligence analysts, to the prosecuting attorneys—there are many people
involved in the investigative process. They may report to different chains of
command and entirely different organizations while operating on separate tracks
toward the same goal. These tracks must be properly aligned for the operation
to run efficiently and effectively through collaborative, up-front planning.
Processes / Policy
Tom Joyce is another
friend of law enforcement. He’s a former New York Police Department Cold Case
Squad Lieutenant Commander. Following his retirement, he too took the corporate
technology path forward as a vice president of Business Development at Vigilant
Solutions and currently runs his own consultancy.
In October, he posted a piece on LinkedIn entitled “The War on Gun Crime, Not so much!” in
reaction to an article he had read in the New York Post.
article, he seemed to be saying that it takes managerial courage and leadership
to seek out and put in place the cross-jurisdictional teamwork, policy-driven
tactics, and layered and leveraging technologies needed to generate timely and
It’s not much of a
stretch to agree and empathize with Joyce’s concerns. The matter of crime and
violence needs leadership. It needs attention and, importantly, support
from our elected leaders and policy makers at all levels of government, and
from our administrators across the criminal justice system.
We know what to do. Police
chiefs the world over know (or should know) what to do as a bounty of model
policies and best practices lay waiting at their fingertips.
Much attention has been
given to the investigation of gun-related crime. Information has been compiled and
• In October 2012, the International
Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) adopted a resolution entitled Regional
Crime Gun Processing Protocols (resolution no. FC.028.a12.3.1). The resolution views regionally applied crime
gun and evidence processing protocols as a best practice for the investigation
of firearm-related crimes. It encourages law enforcement officials, prosecuting
attorneys, and forensic experts to collaborate on the design of mutually
agreeable protocols best suited for their region, and it specifically
identifies NCIC, eTrace, and NIBIN as areas to be addressed.
• In July 2018, the IACP
reinforced the tenets of its 2012 Regional Crime Gun Processing Protocols
resolution and published its Model Policy for Firearm Recovery. The model policy covers the initial recovery of
firearms and fired evidence, including collection, handling, transportation,
interviews, and scene documentation, and highly recommended forensic tests and
database queries, such as NCIC, eTrace, and NIBIN.
• In November 2018, the
IACP adopted Support for Development of Comprehensive Crime Gun Intelligence
Strategies (resolution no. FC.07.t2018). The resolution encourages all law enforcement
agencies to establish protocols with partners like ATF to ensure that recovered
firearms and ballistic-related evidence are appropriately subjected to eTrace,
NCIC, NIBIN, DNA swabbing, latent fingerprint, and trace evidence examinations.
• In 2019, INTERPOL
adopted its Firearms Recovery Protocol and posted it on its website as part of its
Firearms Program. The protocol is a suggested guide for investigating firearm-related
crimes and gun trafficking. INTERPOL states: “The Protocol suggests that the
recovery is just the beginning. Through suspect and other associated
interviews, laboratory examinations, and database queries such as the INTERPOL
Illicit Arms Records and tracing Management System (iARMS) and the INTERPOL Ballistic
Information Network (IBIN), a comprehensive view of firearms trafficking may
steer investigators to target the true source of the firearms that are
recovered in one’s country…”
As Guidetti pointed out
in his article, there are many other technology-generated building blocks of criminal
intelligence beyond the three firearm-oriented ones previously mentioned. When
layered into CGI operations, these other technology systems can leverage and significantly
increase the quantity and quality of actionable intelligence generated. Systems,
such as the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), Combined DNA Index System
(CODIS), Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS),
security cameras, cellphone trackers, automatic license plate readers, facial
recognition systems, and intelligence management software can also help
generate criminal intelligence across all types of crimes.
Three Key Points
1. Perform Comprehensive
CGI Collection and Analysis
Experience has shown
that even seemingly insignificant shootings, such as those that do not result
in injury, can often provide the missing links needed to solve a complex
criminal investigation. Therefore, regardless of the source of the firearm or
the firearm evidence, sustainable CGI protocols should be established and
followed for every gun, every time.
2. Consider a
Armed criminals are
often on the move, leaving a scattering of evidence across city, state, and
even national boundaries. As a result, critical connections can be easily missed,
and valuable clues overlooked.
3. Ensure the Timeliness
is often cyclical and repetitive. Time is of the essence when dealing with these
crimes. The longer repetitive criminal shooters remain free, the more people who
might be harmed. Therefore, in addition to playing a role in effective crime
solving, CGI that is generated in a timely manner can help prevent additional crimes of
violence from occurring.
This writer spent 50-plus
years in this business, and has had the privilege of meeting and working with
many across the law enforcement, forensic, and technology sectors in many
countries throughout the world. The knowledge gleaned from these experiences and
the long-term friendships forged along the way is reflected herein.
Not every affected
organization will find all of the policy-driven processes identified here as easy
to comply with. However, before you give up, ask yourself this question:
“Isn’t it worth
it to try, when the task at hand is really to seek justice for the victims,
resolution for their loved ones, and peace for their neighbors?”
This writer is convinced
that we can only be successful at these tasks of seeking justice, resolution,
and peace—and in building trust amongst the public we serve—with the leadership
and support of our policymakers and administrators. These leaders should be thinking
and acting together with law enforcers, forensic experts, and prosecutors to find
ways to assemble the proper balance of people, processes, and technology
It has been done by some
and it can be done all… with a little help from our friends.
About the Author
Pete Gagliardi is the principal officer
of Triple Barrel Strategies LLC, which provides thought leadership and
strategic planning support to help governments develop sustainable solutions
for the collection and management of CGI. Pete has more than 50 years of
experience extracting useful investigative information from crime guns and
related evidence in both the public and private sectors, 30 of which were spent
serving in law enforcement, primarily with the ATF. His book, The 13
Critical Tasks: An Inside-out Approach to Solving More Gun Crime is in its third
edition. He has served for many years on the Firearms Committee of the IACP.
P. L. 2018. In the crosshairs: Crime gun Intelligence. The Police
P. L. 2019. The 13 Critical Tasks: An Inside-Out Approach to Solving More
Gun Crime, 3rd ed. Cote St-Luc, QC: Forensic Technology Inc.
R., G. Noble, P. L. Gagliardi. 2016. Challenging the status quo: How NJSP
developed its crime gun intelligence program. The Police Chief. 83(9).
E. R., W. R. King, M. C. Matusiak, and B. Campbell. 2016. Testing the effects
of people, processes, and technology on ballistic evidence processing
productivity. Police Quarterly. 19(2):199-215.