FT Blog Posts

The Habit of Solving Gun Crime Through Teamwork, Tactics, and Technology

Posted by Pete Gagliardi on October 14, 2016 6:14:43 PM EDT

Pete Gagliardi, Principal Officer at Triple Barrel Strategies, LLC


Habit - noun hab·it \ˈha-bət\


As defined by Merriam-Webster.com, can refer to: “a usual way of behaving: something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way.”


The late, great, football coach, Vince Lombardi, distilled the winning and losing of football games down to a matter of habit. Winners make a habit of doing all the right things—whether they are advancing the ball down field to score or preventing the opposition from doing the same.lombardi_image.jpg


Lombardi evangelized that winning can become a habit and, unfortunately, so can losing.However, Lombardi also recognized that true champions were doing more than just being smart and doing things the right way. He saw that being number one in any field requires both head and heart.


I think that I understand what Lombardi was saying: not only do you have to know what to do and how to do it, but ya gotta wanna and when ya wanna, ya gotta go all in to do what it takes to do all the right things over and over again, giving all you have to give.   


Indeed, this reminds me of something I read in a press release out of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office a couple of years ago, announcing a new violence suppression strategy aimed at reducing murders and shootings in Newark. The Acting Attorney General, John J. Hoffman, posed a rhetorical question: “How do you stop gun violence when it has reached the point that an innocent 13-year-old honors student, Zainee Hailey, is gunned down while simply taking out the trash on Christmas Day, along with two young men barely older than her? The answer is: You do everything in your power—you marshal your forces and deploy them using a proven plan.


From what I’ve read, I see that the secret to Vince Lombardi’s unique and unparalleled ability to motivate people to be winners, rather than losers, was rooted in more than just passion and inspirational words. It was sustained through his policies—his method of operation—the team rules and principles that his son would later refer to as the “Lombardi Code”. 

Policies drive operations and adherence to policies sustain them. Lombardi established the policies and held himself and his players accountable for living and playing by them. If a player on Lombardi’s team broke a rule in public, he was held accountable for it in public.


Not everyone embraced and accepted the Lombardi’s policies. Some found them unexpected—like the one prohibiting a player from sitting or standing at the bar in a public restaurant.


There was pushback, which is as to be expected whenever change is introduced into an organization. A naysayer could find himself traded to another team before he dried off from his shower after practice that day.


Undaunted, Lombardi persevered. Once the team found itself at the top of the standings, the coach’s policies went unquestioned. There came a time, one player said, “that if the coach told you to go to hell, you’d look forward to the trip.”


I think that solving gun crime and not solving gun crime can be compared to Lombardi’s view of winning and losing—it can be a matter of habit. The major difference is that there is a lot more at stake than being number one and winning a trophy.


Solving gun crime is a matter of justice for the victims, resolution for their loved ones, and peace for their neighbors.

A week or so back, I participated in two regional seminars on solving gun crimes sponsored by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and Ultra Electronics Forensic Technology Inc. In attendance were over 170 law enforcement officers and criminalists from the areas surrounding Anaheim and Pleasanton, California.    


I wish members of the general public could have listened to the presenters from ATF, Cincinnati PD, the New Jersey State Police, Salinas PD, Los Angeles PD, Seattle PD, and the Washington State Patrol, discuss how they have put the right people, processes, and technology in place to make the solving of gun crimes more of a habit.


I think it would be reassuring for the members of any community to know that their police, forensic services providers, and prosecutors are thinking and acting together in doing all of the right things “often in a regular and repeated way” to solve more gun crimes and stop armed criminals from doing further harm. I also believe that it could go a long way in helping reinforce the bonds of trust between a community and its law enforcement authority.  


A number of key points made at the seminars, morphed into a set of common themes emerging from each of the presentations, and were expounded upon by attendees during the breaks. For example, emphasized in every presentation was the importance of:


  • Communication and cross-jurisdictional teamwork: A successful firearms investigation takes a well-coordinated team involving local, state, and federal law enforcers, forensic experts, and prosecutors to manage the many handshakes and handoffs of the data and information required to identify, apprehend, and convict the guilty. Therefore, we must bring the right people together within agencies and across agencies to think and act together, eliminating stovepipes and bridging both the narrowest and widest of gaps. Stakeholder management and strategic planning models like “CompStat” and workshops like the “13 Critical Tasks Workshop” can help teams develop collaborative agreements and comprehensive, yet timely, processes for solving gun crimes.


  • Policy-Driven and Timely Processes: They are required to manage the major elements of the investigative cycle involving the response to a firearm related crime and initial collection of information, the extraction and analysis of additional information from evidence and intelligence, and the dissemination and relentless follow-up of information generated in order to identify, stop, and prosecute the criminals responsible before they can do more harm.


  • Inside-out Forensic Intelligence: The internal ballistics data can help firearm examiners determine to what crimes a gun may be associated, and NIBIN, the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, can help do this at speeds well beyond human capacity and across widely separated jurisdictions. The manufacturer’s identifying nomenclature on the outside of a firearm can be used to request a crime gun trace through ATF’s eTrace system in order to learn who was involved in the transfer history of a gun involved in an investigation. The eTrace system can help increase the efficiency and effectiveness of crime gun tracing both tactically and strategically in terms of identifying patterns and trends. The outside surface of a firearm can also hold DNA, fingerprints, and trace evidence such as blood, hairs, and fibers. National databases like CoDIS (Combined DNA Index System)for DNA and AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System) for fingerprints can also increase the reach and range of searches to identify suspects.  


  • Technology Layering and Leveraging: This is about using all the tools in the crime solving toolbox at each stage of the investigative cycle. Tools like SST™ ShotSpotter® will “call the cops” when a gun is discharged within a defined area, NIBIN will help determine what crimes a gun may be associated with, and eTrace can identify who was involved in the transfer history of a gun involved in a criminal investigation. In addition, other tools are routinely used, such as CCTV cameras; facial recognition software; cell phone locators; automatic license plate readers; and intelligence management software like Shotcaller Global GunOps™, IBM® i2® and Wynyard™ Gun Crime Analytics™.


  • A Regional Approach: Criminals today are often on the move, scattering evidence across city, state, and even national boundaries. Over and over, it has been shown that even seemingly insignificant actions can provide the missing link to solving crimes. A successful murder investigation in a metropolitan area could very well hinge upon the actions of a police officer in a rural town 20 miles away, taking a weapon into custody during a routine motor vehicle stop. Therefore, a regional approach to the collection and management of firearm-related evidence is often essential to a successful firearms investigation. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has officially encouraged the implementation of regionally applied firearm evidence handling protocols to facilitate necessary data sharing. In 2012, the IACP adopted resolution number FC.028.a12, entitled “Regional Crime Gun Processing Protocols”, at its 119th Annual Conference in San Diego, California. This resolution encourages law enforcement officials, prosecuting attorneys, and forensic experts to collaborate on the design of mutually-agreeable protocols best suited for their region.


In closing, the habit of solving gun crimes involves collaborative teamwork, sound tactics, and innovative technology that together, balance like the legs of a three-legged stool.


What if Vince Lombardi were alive today? I wonder what he would think of the three-legged stool analogy and the role that technology could play in the winning of football games. It’s something to consider in view of the fact that many owners, coaches, fans, and even the courts, have been wrapped-up for months now in an often contentious debate focusing on the science and technology issues associated with maintaining the proper inflatable air pressure of a football. As a New Englander born and raised, I make no further predictions or judgements here.


Pete Gagliardi

Contact Pete at: pete@triplebarrelstrategies.com