General document | Forensic (Facial) Comparison: Linking the Science and the Practice - Course Overview and Evaluation
The Defence Science and Technology Group was commissioned by the Australian Federal Police to develop and deliver a course to familiarise participants with the psychological science underpinning forensic comparison, with specific focus on facial comparison, while fulfilling the requirements of six modules from the National Facial Training Framework. This paper contains an overview of the course content, and its delivery and evaluation. It concludes with some recommendations for the future, should the course be delivered again.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP), Facial Identification - Specialist Operations Branch, commissioned the Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group to develop and deliver a training course for staff working in the forensic facial comparison domain. ‘Forensic (Facial) Comparison: Linking the Science and the Practice’ aimed to familiarise participants with the psychological science underpinning forensic comparison, with specific focus on facial image comparison, while fulfilling the requirements of six modules from the National Facial Training Framework.
The course was delivered across two days at the AFP’s Forensic Facility Majura, Canberra. The first day of the course focused on the psychological theories relevant to forensic comparison, and their importance, as well as an overview of the facial comparison research. The second day focused on the sources of bias within the forensic comparison domain, and how to recognise and mitigate them. Attendees included nineteen individuals from the AFP from seven different disciplines (biological criminalistics/DNA, chemical criminalistics/ballistics, document examination, facial identification, fingerprint examination, intelligence, and quality assurance and training). Five individuals from other Australian policing and national security agency facial identification units also attended. The course was delivered in a traditional classroom-style format with content presented via PowerPointTM slides interlaced with practical activities to consolidate learning. Opportunities for participant discussion and interaction were frequent.
Participants completed an evaluation at the conclusion of the course. Overall participants found the course enjoyable and engaging, generally rating the course to be of high educational value. While it was acknowledged that the course was commissioned by the Facial Identification Team, and as such was necessarily biased towards that discipline, it was still of value for the vast range of other disciplines represented. Participants appreciated the delivery style and the flexible timetabling of the sessions. That being said, some participants also indicated that the delivery of Section 1 of the course was not sufficiently in depth and did not provide clear linkages to their work in forensic comparison. Based on participant feedback two recommendations were made:
- Recommendation 1: If delivering the course to a diverse audience in the future, content should be supplemented with research and case studies from other forensic comparison disciplines.
- Recommendation 2: Section 1 of the course An introduction to the psychology and human factors of forensic comparison be reviewed to include more real world examples relevant to the field of forensic comparison.