The successful interrogation of evidence either at a crime scene contaminated with chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) agents, or of the agents themselves back at the lab, is an absolutely vital part of CBRN defence. Not only will processing these agents, or being able to handle traditional evidence in a hazardous environment, be vital to the successful trial and prosecutions of the individuals that carried out the attack, but it might provide vital information as to what agent was used and what medicine needs to be given to the survivors.
The Generic Integrated Forensic Toolbox for CBRN Incidents (GIFT CBRN) is designed to close up the many gaps inherent in this complex area and provide an integrated law enforcement CBRN capability that is world class. At present forensic investigation is hampered by a lack of protocols and training in carrying out forensic analysis on CBRN-contaminated materials. The aim of GIFT-CBRN would be to develop a forensic toolbox for investigating CBRN incidents providing: (1) procedures, sampling methods and detection of CBRN agents at the crime scene, (2) traditional forensic laboratory methods for contaminated evidence and (3) laboratory methods for profiling the CBRN agents released at the incident.
The procedures and methods will be set up and validated according to ISO17025 and the system validation will be performed by a final exercise. In addition to this there will be quality control for chain of custody procedures, that will ensure the integrity of the evidence and investigations done on the evidence from crime scene to court will be developed. An education and training curriculum related to the developed procedures, best practices and methods will be designed and implemented.
There will also be an active research element, which will develop novel methodologies to enable traditional forensic science (DNA, fingerprint and electronic devices) to be carried out on CBRN contaminated exhibits and analytical procedures to be carried out that not only provide information about the CBRN agent itself but also through CBRN profiling provide in-depth information which can give valuable forensic information (on points of origin for example).
The program is split into nine Work Packages (WP):
WP1: This is the management work package, it keeps the entire consortium on track and liaises with the Commission, amongst other things.
WP2: WP2 is composed of threat assessments, gap analysis and toolbox design. It aims to define the forensics community’s needs, once this is completed it will allow identification of what needs to happen to allow responders to perform their tasks safely, quickly and properly. Once the requirements have been identified the various needs will be mapped and prioritized based on the necessity of the gaps being filled. A gap assessment will be performed to see which parts are within GIFT and which parts are outside our scope. This will see a road map being delivered which can be used by forensic organisations for further prioritisation and selection of future research and development directions.
WP3: Once much of the groundwork has been completed in WP2 then the project can start in earnest. WP3 has two central themes, one being the development of protocols for use in the crime scene and the other is the development of investigative methods for when the evidence is contaminated with chemical, biological or radiological agents. Forensic technicians need to be aware that the problem of contamination doesn’t end at the hot zone, and that samples originating from a CBRN-related incident need to be packaged and transported in an appropriate manner. This means that methods need to be validated that can maintain the integrity of the evidence even after decontamination. The debate about ‘how clean is clean’ has no end in sight, and it is often a concern that contamination might spread through a lab, shutting it down. Best practice however, would be to process the evidence at the site. GIFT will develop procedures, guidelines and technology that will enable faster, cheaper, accurate and reliable crime scene investigation at CBRN incidents through effective decontamination. It is clear that the deployment of these protocols and the implementation of the methods must be compatible with the CBRN protocols that have already been developed and implemented within EU member states. Special efforts will be made to ensure the active co-operation of responders in the development of these protocols and methods. Thankfully we have an active End User Group who will observe and advise on the activities proposed during the testing and validation phases of GIFT.
WP4: This will develop procedures and methodologies to enable traditional forensic science (DNA, fingerprint and electronic devices) to be performed on CBRN contaminated exhibits. Procedures and methodologies will be related either to decontamination (i.e. allow forensic science through
removal of the CBRN contamination) or to forensic investigation on contaminated exhibits under protective conditions (i.e. allow forensic science through containment of CBRN contamination). Much of the research on this subject is not designed for forensic operations, so much of the work in this WP will be ground breaking. For example after this work package has finished we should be able to say with a strong degree of certainty how we can lift DNA (both digital and physical) from CBRN contaminated evidence.
WP5: This work package looks at the agent itself, whether we can further develop analytical procedures on the agent and also whether we can identify signatures in the agent that could lead to methods of production and where key elements originated from. While there has been some work on chemical attribution signatures (CAS) done in the past many agents of interest are still missing, and WP5 will fill in some of the most important gaps. It is not just chemical agents that will be looked at, while some work has been done in terms of analysing the source of nuclear materials, very little similar work has been done on the origins of non-nuclear radiological material. Another important elements of any agent analysis is making sure that you have a good, viable sample and this work package will look at a range of technical and procedural ways to do this.
WP6: Like the management WP, the integration package is essential to the success of the program. This WP will focus on the integration of the forensic toolbox and will also link with on-going FP7 and other nationally funded project that are involved with CBRN detection to investigate whether these technologies can be applied to the proposed forensic toolbox. This WP will also develop a web based forensic toolbox which will link closely with technology proposed in WP3 and 5. It will cover all aspects of integration of the various technologies, sensors and analysis techniques developed in WPs 3 and 5 and also develop a portable remote detection system and a bench-top fully integrated multi-parameter detection platform system. It will also focus on the integration of the detectors, fluidic components, data transfer and wireless communication devices, hardware interface circuitries and the development of suitable data processing software for all the sensor modular configurations proposed in this project.
WP7: This work package validates the procedures and methods developed in WP3, 4 and 5. Even though they will have been tested by the individual developers this WP will test the procedures and methods in a broader way. There will be an improved quality assurance offered in this WP through lab and field exercises : this will see the usability of the procedures and methods demonstrated in realistic scenarios and contexts. An education and training curriculum ‘CBRN forensics’ for end users will be developed in this work package. This will teach forensic investigators and forensic police teams how to use and apply with the forensic toolbox, procedures and methods.
WP8: This WP will study the legal, ethical and societal aspects of the project in order to provide stakeholders with the appropriate guidance to avoid any negative impact during the project execution or in an eventual future deployment based in this research. Since the final fruits of this project will be used in a court of law it is vital that legal and ethical issues are given a high importance. The WP plan will provide an early alert on every issue, avoiding the risk of having to redesign significant parts of the system that have been already developed. The project team includes forensic research laboratories, potential users of the expected developments, including public and private users, and SMEs who will be able to bring the new technologies developed within the project to market.
WP9: Is the dissemination workpackage. This will create a CBRN forensics community that will be able to help guide and validate the whole project. This community will be created through interactive workshops, conferences, articles and publications in a variety of disciplines. To learn more about attending one of these events, or to invite a GIFT speaker to your event email firstname.lastname@example.org
The project team includes forensic research laboratories, potential users of the expected developments, including public and private users, and SMEs who will be able to bring the new technologies developed within the project to market. Find out who does what within the project by clicking on the people link above.