Webinar presenters Byron O’Neil and Noreen Charlton answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Capturing the Truth: HOw 3D Technology Can Help Your Agency Manage Officer-Involved Incidents. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: At what point in the crime scene response do typically scan the crime scene?
Bryon O’Neil: So that, that goes back and forth. And I don’t think we’ve found a perfect answer. There are times when our CSIs go through first and take pictures and video, and then we’ll go through and scan. And there are other scenes where we wait until all the placards are put out. And I really wish I had a good solid answer on that, but it’s just every scene, my team and the CSIs talk about when do we want to scan. And sometimes we’ve done both will go in and scan first and then go back and scan when they have the placards in so that we have both. Another thing that we like one of the things we always do is scan before the body is moved. And so, a lot of times we’ll scan. And the body is moved. Maybe there’s evidence under the body. It’s very simple. To go back to you one more scan, and you can now very easily show the scene both ways with the body there, and then you can hide the body and show what was underneath. So yeah, we really kind of take that on a case-by-case basis. I’m one who tends to like to scan earlier rather than later just because you’re capturing the scene as it was found before anything was done to it. But I also know that it’s very useful to have the placards in there. So yeah, hopefully, I answered that. But it kind of depends, I guess.
Audience Question: I know you talked about how easy, how easy it is to use, but we wanted to know, how long does it really take to learn to do this? What does the learning curve?
Bryon O’Neil: So, learning to scan is, the basics of it is very, very simple. We got our scanner on a, I believe it was a Tuesday, Wednesday night. Wednesday night, we had a homicide scene. So that, next morning, they were bringing us in the document, the scene. And we thought, let’s just give the scanner a try. And it was the first thing we ever scan. And it was really quite simple, and we never really looked back. So, the basic operation of it is very simple. I do highly, highly, highly recommend that everyone operating the scanner be certified and go through the actual FARO training, which is a three-day class. I’m actually an instructor for that. And I can tell you that you do learn a lot of things that just make it easier. As I said, you can mess up and still be okay. That’s how I learned, a great majority of the things I did is by messing up because. So, we were the First Department and Oregon have a FARO scanner. So, we were kind of, we didn’t have anyone to rely on, we’re just kind of figuring it out as we went. And every scene that I quote, unquote, messed up, we still were able to get a workable product out of it. And so, you know, but having that training really helps, helps fill in a lot of blanks. It helps keep you from making the simple mistakes that make it harder. The actual on-scene scanning is very simple. Processing and registering are also quite simple unless something was done wrong on the scene. And by done wrong, I mean you’ve moved too far between scanning locations or something like that where it doesn’t want to register. That’s where it gets a little hard, but even that is not terribly difficult. Once you kind of get the hang of it, the software walks you through, step by step what needs to be done. So, it’s, it’s really not a terribly difficult thing to pick up at all.
Host: I did want to share a comment from Nicole. Nicole said, thank you so much, Brian, for a magnificent presentation. It’s amazing to see how digital scanning works. So, thank you, Nicole, for making that comment, Always appreciate hearing those.
Audience Question: How did you determine the resolution and quality settings that are being used by your department?
Bryon O’Neil: So, that was, again, just playing around and experimenting. We were trying to balance the amount of time it took, versus the quality of the product that we were seeing. And so, I just started, basically, playing with it and, sort of that’s the settings that we landed on. Now, the settings that I’m using are the General ones that FARO has come to recommend over the years. So, I think folks have kind of figured out that that’s sort of the sweet spot in terms of, you know, you can go you can bump your resolution way up, and, you know, get really, really good looking pictures with very few holes. You know, the data’s really tight and there’s not a lot of, not a lot of noise and that stuff. But it takes two hours to scan. The scans that I do, if we’re doing it in color, take just shy of eight minutes, if we’re doing it without color, is just shy of four minutes. So, you know, to me, that’s a good balance point. You can move through a scene quickly. Generally, on-scene data collection time is right around an hour. From the time we get there and start scanning to we’re done scanning is about an hour. And again, it depends on the number of scans, but we average about 7 to 8 scans per scene. Mainly crashes, crime scenes, it’s dependent on, you know, if it’s in a house and you’re scanning each room, that can get a little bigger or like this one where it’s a very large scene. Obviously, that takes a little more time. But, you know, coming up with that resolution and settings, was just something I played around with. But that’s sort of, that’s kind of become the industry standard, I think, for. It’s around that, around that, that type of setting. And there are some things that you’ll learn in the certification process, on times you want to tweak something here there just because the environmental factors might be causing some issues.
Audience Question: Does the FARO equipment scan evidence such as shell casings and fired bullets?
Bryon O’Neil: It does. So, it picks up all kinds of stuff. But, obviously, the closer it is to the scanner, the better it’s going to pick it up. But it will absolutely pick up shell casings and bullet fragments. I do, about two-thirds of my work is a crash reconstruction, and that’s where I really love to work on. And it picks up skid marks very well, glass, all those types of things. It will pick up smaller items. You know, if you think about going back in time, to the first computers, how things were kind of blocky and pixelated, generally speaking, the farther away from the scanner you get, the more blocky and pixilated something is going to be. So smaller things that you want to pick up and have it look a little smoother. You want to be closer to that. Now, I say, generally speaking, because you can also bring your resolution up, and that’s going to do the same thing. But bringing up resolution increases your time. So, yeah, it will definitely pick up little things like that. And obviously, you know, for doing I think we touched on it, but we didn’t show any examples, but doing blood spatter analysis, those are very small little droplets that it’s picking up on. So, you can get quite small with the things that are picked up by the scanner.
Audience Question: Are you aware of any agencies that were able to use grant funds to purchase the technology? And if so, can you share any details?
Bryon O’Neil: I have heard of some, but I don’t have any details, and I don’t know who they were. I’ve just heard. I’ve heard people talking about, there are grants available out there. We haven’t successfully been able to do that. But if you hear of anything, let me know.
Noreen Charlton: I could touch on that really briefly; a lot of agencies do obtain grants to bring scanners into their agency to use for documentation. Especially recently, with the Cares Act. A lot of agencies have to use that as well. Because using the scanner eliminates your time on scene and the time that you need to be, you know, amongst other personnel on scene, or just on the scene in general, you know, in a residence or in a building. So, yes, there are certainly grants out there. My e-mail address should be on your screen, right now. You can absolutely reach out to me, and I can help point you in the right direction for that.
Host: Absolutely, and I actually just posted to the chat area, a link. policegrantshelp.com/federal grant assistance. So, we’ll include that on the resource page, but certainly, feel free to copy and paste that now off of the chat area and just reach out to me if you need us to resend that or anything like that.
Audience Question: Bob wanted to find out a little bit more about how many let’s see how many points and measurements are typically collected in a scan?
Bryon O’Neil: Millions. Every single point and I’ll go back to the idea of pixels because we’re all familiar with that. It’s essentially what it is, it’s millions of pixels. And every one of those is measurable. Every one of them is assigned an X, Y, and Z co-ordinate by the scanner, and you can measure between them. So, you know, at one time, I looked at what the, what the point, how many points for in this particular scene. Because I’ve used it on a couple of different discussions. I don’t recall off the top of my head. But, yeah. It’s, it’s millions and millions of points
Host: Got it. And, as you mentioned before, people. You can, of course, create a video, but you get sounds like prosecutors can actually go in and measure distances between things or are crime scene analysts to your mentioned that earlier?
Bryon O’Neil: Yes, absolutely. The FARO Scene software and the FARO Zone 3D, both, you can measure in there, and then in the Scene To Go, you can also take measurements in that, as well, So, lots of different ways to take measurements. And it, whenever you get a measurement, you get three measurements, so you get the straight line distance, you get the horizontal distance and the vertical distance, which if there are any crash or construction folks on this discussion, it is absolutely fantastic for getting the slope of a roadway. Just simply by clicking on two points, I will give you the rise over the run. So that’s another great little feature.
Audience Question: Have you found that juries relate to this well? Does it help the prosecutor tell the story of the case better?
Bryon O’Neil: Absolutely. You know, they say a picture’s worth a thousand words. A 3D environment is worth so much more than that, for a couple of different reasons. One, it just truly helps them understand. Well, you know, when you’re talking about perspective, there is no better way to show them perspective, than show them the actual perspective. Not a picture of it, but in 3D, they’re standing in that spot and able to see how that perspective changes as you move up, or down, or left or right, just a little bit. But also, another piece of that is that very, very few people on these juries have not watched a CSI or a cop drama of some kind. They expect this kind of stuff from us. And so, when you go in there and you show what they’re expecting to see, they’re happy, you know, they, they get it, it helps them and they just, they’re not questioning it. I know that’s when we first started out, we were worried. Oh, are they going to question? I haven’t gotten a single bit of doubt from either the juries, the judges. Even the defense attorneys have not had any issue with the data itself. They’re just accepting it as at face value, and it truly lends a great perspective into what it is you’re trying to show.
Audience Question: What kind of computer does your department use, and what are the specifications?
Bryon O’Neil: Off the top of my head, I don’t have gone through a couple of computers in six years. So, I don’t know what this current one is, but it is pretty beefy. Back when we started, it was much, much cheaper to go desktop and laptop. If I were to start over today, I would just get a gaming laptop. That’s what I bought for when I go and do the FARO instruction. When I’m doing the certifications and teach in those, I use my own personal gaming laptop. If you just look at the FARO Scene web page, it will show you the specifications. One thing I will warn, all those of you working for public agencies, is that your IT department is not going to believe that you actually need those specifications. And they’ll think they can get something a little less than that. It’s not going to work at a local agency neighboring on our border that bought a FARO and their IT department said, “I will take care of it, we got this,” and their computer will not run the software. So, they are stuck buying another computer. So, just look at those specs and, you know, as always, the more you can go over those specs and I’ll tell you two things that are most important. Are the graphics card and the RAM, you’re dealing with 3D data. Those are the two things that really need to be over-purchased. I would say, above and beyond what the current scene recommends. Scene and FARO Zone tend to pretty much mirror each other on their requirements. So, either one of them, you’re fine, but just remember that you’re going to have this computer for 2 or 3 years and both Scene and FARO zone are constantly improving. So, I always recommend that you buy is as much better of a computer as your budget will allow. Because then you can just, you can have it longer, and it will run better. So, I don’t have the exact numbers, but just googling FARO Scene technical specifications, it should pop right up and that will they’ll be able to tell you that.
Host: That sounds great, folks. We also just posted a link to a guide to 3D laser scanner grants, so posted that, again, to the chat. We’ll put it on the resource page, and again, just reach out to us if you need that later on.
Audience Question: Can bad weather interfere with the scanner?
Bryon O’Neil: A little bit. Yeah, if you get really heavy snow, if you think about, you know, it’s firing these laser beams out, it can tend to pick up the snow more than anything else. And so, it’ll sometimes block it from measuring. The way to fix that is just doing more scans and you’ll, you’ll fill it in. Heavy rain can also be another one. I talked about reflectivity. If you have a lot of standing water, the beam does not pick up standing water or reflect off so, you’ll get a lot of blank spots. So, but, you know, I live in Oregon, if you’re not familiar with us. We have a fair amount of rain out here. My X330 scanner is not supposed to be in the rain. So, we just stand next to it with a golf umbrella and get a little bit wet while the scanner stays dry and it works just perfectly fine. Now, we’ve not had any trouble at all. And it can be, it can have some issues scanning in the cold, if it gets too cold, like, really cold, which we’ve had once or twice. But, in those cases, we would just do one scan, set it on the dashboard, with the heat on for a little bit, and take it out and do another scan. So, there are ways around it. I have never had a scene I couldn’t scan because of the weather. And we’ve had some pretty nasty weather. I actually was scanning. at a conference, one time I was doing a talk. And as part of the talk for the conference, we were supposed to go outside and scan a mock scene, kind of walk everybody through it. It was the remnants of a typhoon was rolling through and no one wanted to go outside. So, I stood outside with one other person and we were holding this, holding in the umbrella over it. And the winds were so hard we had to hold, not the pull of the umbrella, but the actual umbrella itself, with four hands to keep it from blowing away. And it’s still scanned just perfectly fine. So, there are some intricacies to it, but like I said, I’ve never had a scene I couldn’t scan because of the weather.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Capturing the Truth: HOw 3D Technology Can Help Your Agency Manage Officer-Involved Incidents.