Forensic crime labs play an important role in the criminal justice system’s response to violent gun crimes in the USA. The purpose of this paper is to describe the methods of firearms analysis including ballistics imaging and proposed best practices for investigating gun crimes. A separate line of research has begun to explore the structure of forensic labs and how structure impacts lab performance.
To date, however, proposed best practices in firearms investigation have not been empirically tested within crime labs. The authors address this gap in the literature by using a mediation model examining organizational correlates of a limited number of tasks (identified by Peter Gagliardi’s 13 Critical Tasks) believed to enhance our final dependent measures, forensic crime lab outcomes (NIBIN acquisitions and hits). The authors examine, therefore, the relationship between organizational correlates, collected from a sample of publicly funded labs in the USA, on several of Gagliardi’s tasks and then explore the relationship of those tasks on our outcome variables: NIBIN acquisitions and hits.
Results indicate agency size and number of agencies serviced by a lab are significant factors associated with our mediating variables (Gagliardi’s tasks). Communication was identified as a significant task associated with achieving NIBIN acquisitions and hits. In general, this study underscores the importance of communication between labs and other institutional constituents for increasing ballistics imaging outputs. Furthermore, findings provide partial support for Gagliard’s tasks, by highlighting the role of enhanced communication on organization-based performance outcomes.
This study is the first to examine the mediating effect of Gagliardi’s tasks on the organizational performance of ballistics imaging systems within crime labs. In addition, this study examines the influence of organizational correlates on these mediating tasks.
Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the USA Department of Justice. This work was supported by the National Institute of Justice (Grant No. 2010-DN-BX-0001). The authors are grateful to Peter Gagliardi, who provided comments and feedback on an earlier version of this paper.
Shadwick, J., King, W., Zhang, Y., Matusiak, M. and Campbell, B. (2019), "Assessing best practices in crime labs structure, processes, and performance: A partial test of Gagliardi’s
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