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Assessing best practices in crime labs structure, processes, and performance: A partial test of Gagliardi's 13 Critical tasks

NCJ Number
Policing - An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management Volume: 42 Issue: 5 Dated: 2019 Pages: 751-766
Date Published
16 pages

Since forensic crime labs play an important role in the criminal justice system’s response to violent gun crimes in the United States, this article describes the methods of firearms analysis, including ballistics imaging, and proposed best practices for investigating gun crimes. 


To date, however, proposed best practices in firearms investigation have not been empirically tested within crime labs. The authors address this gap in the literature by using a mediation model that examined organizational correlates of a limited number of tasks (identified by Peter Gagliardi’s 13 Critical Tasks) believed to enhance the final dependent measures, forensic crime lab outcomes (NIBIN acquisitions and hits). The authors examine, therefore, the relationship between organizational correlates collected from a sample of publicly funded labs in the United States on several of Gagliardi’s tasks and then explore the relationship of those tasks on our outcome variables: NIBIN acquisitions and hits. Results indicate agency size and number of agencies serviced by a lab are significant factors associated with the mediating variables (Gagliardi’s tasks). Communication was identified as a significant task associated with achieving NIBIN acquisitions and hits. In general, this study underscores the importance of communication between labs and other institutional constituents for increasing ballistics imaging outputs. Furthermore, findings provide partial support for Gagliard’s tasks by highlighting the role of enhanced communication on organization-based performance outcomes. This study is the first to examine the mediating effect of Gagliardi’s tasks on the organizational performance of ballistics imaging systems within crime labs. In addition, this study examines the influence of organizational correlates on these mediating tasks. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2019