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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Where are we going?

It seems that we are at a cross-roads, and we may not know it. The majority of "forensic" practitioners at the city/county level are sworn law enforcement. When you get to the state level, the gap starts to narrow. At the national level, it narrows further still.

Many in "the community" want this gap to go away. The trend "in the community" is for "forensics" to take place at a lab ... and for practitioners to hold at least a MS degree, with a PhD preferred. 

Think I'm kidding? Check out the ASTM International, the new version  of the American Society for Testing and Materials. Their subcommittee (E30) for Forensic Sciences has draft proposals for new standards under consideration. These cover Practice for Computer Forensics and Education and Training in Digital Forensics.

While the ASTM acknowledges that the current practitioners may hold a great deal of knowledge and skill, and may do their best to improve themselves through the course of their career, it would be better if they sought and achieved advanced degrees in their field of choice. For us, multimedia evidence doesn't get introduced until the Masters level. Yes, the title of the proposal says Computer Forensics, but they've included video, audio, and cell phones in their proposal.

Most of the readers of this blog are stakeholders in this discussion of proposed new standards. Yet, the ASTM has done little to reach out to you and I to include us in the discussion. You may want to check out these proposals and run them by your employers. They may not be compatible with your agency's strategic plans or culture. They may not have the money to put you through college to get your PhD, do you? You may want to weigh in on the discussion. But hurry, the balloting closes on this soon.

We may end up with a situation where a few PhDs lead the discussion (in private) towards a new standard whereby only labs staffed with doctors and grad students can process video evidence. You think you've got a backlog of cases now, just wait. Better yet, don't wait ... speak up.  You may like the proposed policy, you may not. But, at least you will have had your say.

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