Solving Shootings. Building Trust.
Written by Pete Gagliardi   

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).

This article appeared in the January-February 2021 issue of Evidence Technology Magazine.
You can view that full issue here.

“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 crimes.

3. Gunfire Detection/Location Technology

Gunfire detection 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

People, Processes, 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.

Cross-Jurisdictional Teamwork
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 Driven Tactics
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.

Paraphrasing Joyce’s 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 sustainable CGI.

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 stances resolved.

For example:

• 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…”

Layered and Leveraging Technologies
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 Regional Approach

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 of Processes

Firearm-related violence 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.

Final Thoughts
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 required.

It has been done by some and it can be done all… with a little help from our friends.

About the Author

This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it 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.


Gagliardi, P. L. 2018. In the crosshairs: Crime gun Intelligence. The Police Chief. 85(7):44-50.

Gagliardi, 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.

Guidetti, R., G. Noble, P. L. Gagliardi. 2016. Challenging the status quo: How NJSP developed its crime gun intelligence program. The Police Chief. 83(9).

Maguire, 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.

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