On January 13, 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) published a statement regarding the September 2016 President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (“PCAST”) report titled, Forensic Science in Criminal Courts: Ensuring Scientific Validity of Feature Comparison Methods. According to DOJ, the report "contained several fundamentally erroneous claims. Among them were that 'feature comparison' methods belong to the scientific discipline of metrology (measurement science); that feature comparison methods can only be deemed 'foundationally valid' by adhering to PCAST’s mandatory and non-severable set of experimental design criteria; and that error rates for feature comparison methods can only be established using these 'appropriately designed' black box studies.
Access both the abstract and statement at DOJ's Forensic Science site.
Speir, J.A. (2020). Forensic Footwear Reliability: Part I—Participant Demographics and Examiner Agreement. (online version of record before inclusion in an issue)
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The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has developed guidance documents governing the testimony and reports of its forensic experts. These documents, known as Uniform Language for Testimony and Reports (ULTR), are designed to provide guidance on the submission of scientific statements by the Department’s forensic examiners when drafting reports or testifying. This applies to those examiners employed by the ATF, DEA and FBI.
On June 8, 2020, DOJ approved ULTRs for both the Forensic Footwear Discipline and the Forensic Tire Discipline; these documents are now available online with an effective date of August 15, 2020. These two specific ULTRs apply to both ATF and FBI laboratory examiners who are authorized to prepare reports and provide expert witness testimony regarding forensic footwear and tire examinations.
It should be noted that the ULTRs are work product of DOJ and in no way are affiliated with the OSAC.
The NIST OSAC Footwear and Tire Subcommittee published their first official document in July 2019. The publication is a terminology standard (Terminology Used for Forensic Footwear and Tire Evidence) which replaced the SWGTREAD Standard for Terminology Used for Forensic Footwear and Tire Impression Evidence (published in March 2013).
This publication was a long time coming and the result of a lot of hard work by a small group of dedicated forensic footwear/tire professionals. The subcommittee had their inaugural meeting in 2014, but it wasn't until 5 years later that subcommittee members realized the fruits of their labor. They should be commended for their hard work and determination, both of which were required to see this publication to fruition.
Watch the ASB website for future drafts for comment and publications related to the collection, preservation and examination of footwear and tire impression evidence.