We have all heard the saying, “not all that glitters is gold” and when it comes to selecting and retaining a forensic expert, you want the real deal, not just a shiny pretty rock! Everything we discuss in this series is relevant when you are hiring any type of expert – forensic or otherwise. You should thoroughly vet any expert you wish to retain – and that includes us as well.
I started my scientific career in the field of Pharmacology and Toxicology, where it was a “show me, don’t tell me” approach. Expertise was founded on your peer reviewed publications, grant writing/funding and ability to be an active participant in moving the field of science. The charlatans, posers and wannabes had a very short shelf life in this environment!
The world of digital and multimedia evidence (DME) is a rapidly and ever changing landscape. So how do you properly vet a forensic expert that you may want to retain for an upcoming case? In this series, we will be looking at several key indicators and sources of information to see how your expert stacks up. This week, we’ll be taking a look at curriculum vitae and participation in the forensic community.
Check their CV:
A CV or Curriculum Vitae is like a résumé, but is a bit more detailed listing specific skills and training. This is a snapshot of skills, training, education and career on paper.
When reviewing a CV, everything presented should be verifiable by certificates, degrees or some other mechanism.
Pay particular attention to:
- Present and past employers
- Certifications and degrees (confirming institution, expiration, etc.)
- Training specific to forensic and classes taken, preferably listing instructor, date and number of hours attended.
- Be cautious if the only training documented on the CV was conferences or seminar training. Don’t get me wrong, there is some great training available at conferences, but a single 2-hour lecture does not an expert make!
- When was the last training taken? For example, if the last forensic video analysis class attended was in 2003 – there have been more than a few advances since then. As a general rule, a forensics expert should take at least 20-40 hours of continuing education related to their field every year.
- Be cautious of experts with only TV and movie credits on their CV. Just because CNN, ABC or Sony Pictures recognizes you as an expert does not mean your scientific peer group does.
Does Your Expert Participate in the Forensics Community?
There are many scientific forensic organizations with the express goal of improving the quality, reliability and technological advances in the field of forensics. Some of these groups are open to law enforcement only, but many are a partnership of government and private forensics practitioners. Has
your expert been a member of any of these organizations? Is their membership still active? Have they ever been on a committee or participated in the generation of documents within these groups?
Absence of membership in groups alone should not completely undermine the credibility of your potential expert, however it should cause you to review more thoroughly the other aspects of their qualifications. Likewise, membership in an alphabet soup collection of organizations alone should not automatically move them to the top of your list. Take the time to do a little research into the organization, their membership criteria, publications, etc. If you need more information, ask your expert to speak to how they joined and what roles they played within the group.
In this post, we discussed the review of CVs and participation in professional organizations. There are several other factors that you should consider when vetting a potential expert. Stay tuned for the next post in this series which will address the topic of certifications – definitely a hot topic in the forensic community these days!