By Michael Cunningham, May 26, 2014
As a trainer specializing in public safety agencies, I have a good perspective on the growth of laser scanning in our field. From my thousand-foot view, I see that scanning is maturing in forensics. What I also see is that this growth is being driven by agencies sharing knowledge and pushing the technology forward in order to improve as a profession.
Not too long ago, laser scanning technology was new on the forensics scene, and users were focused on learning how best to use and deploy their state-of-the-art scanners. Now that they understand the technology and are confident in its use, they’re beginning to broaden their outlook. Instead of just taking it to the homicide scene and scanning the area, they’re beginning to think about how it can be used in other scenarios. They’re asking questions like, How are we going to use laser scanning technology if a terrorist attack happens? How are we going to use it if a major event happens and we have to team up with other agencies in the area?
A recent Kansas Bureau of Investigation event is a good example of this professional cooperation. In Kansas, public safety agencies began exchanging ideas and information, just like other professionals, and this interchange blossomed into the 3D Terrestrial Scanning Conference, which took place May 7-8. This free event drew seven state agencies–both scanning and nonscanning–and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The conference, which I also attended, was not about whose scanner is better, who has better skills or who’s had better cases. It was just about sharing knowledge. In essence, they were saying, “We all have this technology. How do we use it to really move our profession forward?”
The following week, I experienced a similar phenomenon in New Jersey at a continuing education event sponsored by the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office, the Somerset County Police Academy, and the Northeast Crime Scene Institute. This four-week comprehensive training program for crime scene investigators included an introductory session on forensic mapping, and I provided instruction and hands-on demonstrations in laser scanning. Even though the agencies present are not yet scanning, the technology is maturing enough in forensics that they wanted to learn more about it and see how it can help their profession.
These experiences are evidence that we’re getting past the need to prove that laser scanning can work in forensics. That’s been done. Laser scanning is quickly finding its place in mainstream forensics, and public safety professional organizations–by cooperating and sharing their knowledge–are pushing the technology forward.
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About the author: After a 26 year career, Mike Cunningham retired from the New York City Police Department in 2012 as a Detective 1st Grade and the senior ranking Investigator in the Crime Scene Unit. In addition to his many years of CSI experience, he was a forensics instructor for the NYPD and is a Certified Instructor for Department of Homeland Security course “Advanced Forensics for Hazardous Environments” and “Integrated Response to WMD Incidents” As a contractor for the U.S. State Department, he served as an International Police Instructor for “Forensic Examination of Terrorist Crime Scenes” delivered to US anti-terrorism partner nations. Mike served his country with distinction and professionalism for ten months at Ground Zero in the aftermath of September 11th. He is an IAI Certified Crime Scene Investigator and a New York State Certified Police Instructor.