Should a Laser Scan Technician Proficiency Certificate be in Your Curriculum Vitae?

With OSAC forensic standards on the horizon, it’s a good idea for both individuals and agencies to be proactive. Those who have already adopted forensic scanning are well-positioned for the future because the laser scanner’s objective collection of evidence, I believe, will make it a foundational piece of the reforms.

With its recent reports on laser scanners used at crime scenes, the National Institute of Justice has spoken clearly that scanners capable of producing survey-grade measurements should be deployed for gathering evidence. It should be noted that Leica Geosystems is the only manufacturer that has proven—through both validation studies and court acceptance—that its laser scanners are highly accurate scientific instruments and that its scan data can be considered scientific evidence.

But keep in mind that forensic reforms won’t be limited to instrumentation. In a forensic laboratory system, which is the direction all crime scene units in this country are going, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) rules. Section 5.2.1 of ISO/IEC 17025:2005 requires users to demonstrate technical competency. According to early work products from the National Commission on Forensic Science (NCFS), this includes crime scene units and those performing crime scene reconstruction.

The proactive approach

To help professionals prepare for this future, Leica Geosystems’ Public Safety Group offers courses toward a Laser Scan Technician Proficiency Certification. The courses were first introduced at HxGN LIVE  June 13-16, 2016 in Anaheim, Calif., and continue to be offered at HxGN LIVE events. Additional training courses are offered through HDSU SmartPlan, which offers self-service training as well as virtual classes. The proficiency certification is what the industry needs in order to support the upcoming OSAC requirements, and it’s our job, as a manufacturer, to assist our customers.

Leica Geosystems recommends that any person or entity that (1) recognizes, collects, analyzes or interprets physical evidence and (2) issues test or examination results, provides laboratory reports, or offers interpretations, conclusions or opinions through testimony with respect to the analysis of such evidence should strongly consider proficiency certification. If the preceding language looks familiar, that’s because it’s taken directly from the NCFS recommendation for universal accreditation.

Benefits of proficiency certification

On the individual level, the proficiency certification provides independent, external validation of your ability to do your job, which is what the courts are looking for. When asked if you have the skills to deliver forensic scan data to the courtroom, you can say, “Yes. I have been externally proficiency tested by Leica Geosystems.” As a forensic expert, that’s a very desirable certificate to have in your curriculum vitae. That’s the No. 1 benefit our new proficiency testing certification. As forensic professionals, we must always be prepared for an opposing attorney who is seeking to exclude our scan data from trial, and attacking your competency is one way to prevent your analysis from being admitted. Manufacturer’s training courses and High Definition Surveying (HDS) continuing education classes (like those offered at HxGN LIVE) topped off with a proficiency certification is an excellent way to demonstrate that you have the fundamental skills for forensic surveying.

Leica’s proficiency certification is also an answer to the needs of crime laboratories and law enforcement agencies seeking to meet ISO requirements for their employees. In ISO laboratory systems, if you work any type of forensic technique, you must pass an internal competency test. However, many small laboratories and police agencies do not yet have quality assurance managers or QA policies in place. Leica’s proficiency certification aids in bridging this gap by offering an external proctored examination to demonstrate that their employees are proficiency-tested and capable of the fundamental workflow required to produce forensic deliverables.

Some public safety agency managers are being very proactive and implementing reforms before government requirements mandate them. They recognize the strengths of the quality assurance measures being recommended by the NCFS through ISO certification. Even if agencies are not ISO certified, many are seeking to implement policies that replicate best practices to future-proof their investigative forensic scan data. For agencies that have obtained ISO certification, it’s my hope that Leica Geosystems’ proficiency testing will provide a framework for internally delivered QA laboratory proficiency tests. If asked to provide documentation as to how an agency developed its QA policies and testing procedures, agencies can respond, “Leica Geosystems has provided guidance in the development of our internal laboratory QA proficiency tests.”

Prove you have what it takes

As Leica’s public safety training manager—and the test proctor—I’m not just looking for someone who simply knows how to operate a Leica ScanStation or RTC360. The proficiency test will also evaluate how the forensic laser scan technician integrates laser scanning technology into the crime scene documentation workflow.

Each candidate will be observed and tested for technical competency in the completion of the required tasks, including setting up the ScanStation, scanning a staged crime scene, registering the scan data, and producing a TruView deliverable. The test is a pass/fail exam. Those who pass will be presented with a Leica Geosystems Laser Scan Technician Proficiency Certification demonstrating the successful completion of a manufacturer’s proficiency test. The certificate will be provided by email and is valid for one year.

It’s my recommendation that public safety agencies take the proactive approach and begin viewing proficiency testing as a routine yearly event. With proven technical competency on a scientifically validated Leica ScanStation, individuals—and the agencies they serve—will be ready.

For more information on how to improve your crime and crash scene documentation, please contact us.

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