Hello, my name is Brent Ostrum.
I am a professional forensic document examiner (FDE) presently working for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) of the government of Canada. I have been in this profession full-time since 1985, first with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and now with the CBSA. I enjoy it tremendously.
I am NOT a graphologist, as the term is used in North America to indicate someone who studies handwriting to assess aspects of personality, and I am not at all interested in that topic.
Some of my professional activities include serving as the chairman of the Document Section in the Canadian Society of Forensic Science (CSFS), volunteering on the Executive Committee of Skill-Task Training Assessment and Research, Inc (ST2AR), working on the (now defunct) E30-02 ASTM sub-committee, serving as a member of the Scientific Working Group for Forensic Document Examination (SWGDOC) as well as being a guest attendee/member on the NIST OSAC Subcommittee on Questioned Documents. Another NIST activity I am presently involved in is the Expert Working Group on Human Factors in Handwriting Examination.
I have been professionally certified by the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners and have done case examinations resulting in testimony in several Canadian jurisdictions including British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario (thus far).
I have many research interests including the assessment of examiner competency, method validation issues as well as the application of image and data processing to FDE problems. In particular, I consider myself to be a student of logic, statistical inference, and evidence evaluation. To further my understanding of these topics I took a course from the Université de Lausanne a while ago (click here for info about UNIL’s “Statistics and Evaluation of Forensic Evidence” course). As a side note, I highly recommend that course to anyone wishing to learn about these things. You will not find a better course, or better instructors, anywhere.
I have given several tutorials/workshops relating to that topic with a focus on FDE work; for example, one entitled “Logical Inference and Evidence Evaluation for QDE” given to SWGDOC members, a variation at the 2013 ASQDE meeting and at a couple of similar sessions at CSFS conferences. I have presented my views on this during various panel discussions. Other related presentations and articles include “Conclusion Scales and Logical Inference”, “Proficiency Testing and Competency”, “Admissibility of FDE Evidence under R. v. Mohan”, “Forensic Handwriting Identification: A Canadian Perspective on the Admissibility of (Expert) Handwriting Evidence”, “A Canadian Perspective on Forensic Science versus Pseudoscience” and “Error, Confidence and (Un)certainty – Deconstructing Authorship Opinions Using a Forced-Call Testing Protocol”.
This blog will serve as a forum for my thoughts on these (and other topics). It will be updated as time and my fancy dictates. If you have any questions or an alternative point-of-view I would love to hear from you.
One final note: unless otherwise indicated, my posts do NOT reflect the official position, policies, standards or beliefs of my employer (the CBSA), the Government of Canada, the Canadian Society of Forensic Science, or any other body or organization. I have a LOT of beliefs but they’re all mine, mine I tell you, just MINE… but we can share if you ask nicely.