One of the key elements in the logical approach to evidence evaluation are the propositions used for the evaluation. They are, in a certain sense, the most important part of the whole process. At the same time, they are also one of the least understood.
Today’s post explores the concept of propositions. I will attempt to describe what they are, how they are used, why we don’t change them once set and why they matter so much, among other things… all from the perspective of forensic document examination (and other forensic disciplines).
What is certification? To me, professional certification is a designation that indicates the holder of the certification has appropriate and adequate qualifications to do some particular, generally well-defined, job or task. As an example I am a forensic document examiner and I have received professional certification from the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners, Inc.
An internet search for ‘certification’ produces a huge list of possibilities, with more such programs being developed all the time as people become attuned to issues of quality and competency. Indeed, almost every profession has some type of certification and a few have several (consider all of the ‘certifications’ in the computing industry). Most, if not all, certification programs are aimed at improving the quality in a given profession by setting minimum standards for the job. The basic idea is that someone meeting or exceeding those standards will produce quality output on the job. Certification programs are generally created or are administered by a professional society, a college or university, or some private body set up expressly for that purpose.
Forensic Document Examination is no exception so it may be worthwhile discussing certification options as well as the pros and cons that I see for those options.
Okay, determining the ‘best’ of anything is always a challenge. It is, in almost every instance, a highly subjective decision based on some set of appealing features or characteristics… appealing to the person making the determination, of course. And, because this is my blog, that person happens to be me.
In fairness, there are a number of authors who have written extensively on the topic: Osborn, Ellen, Hilton, Harrison, Hilton, among others (and I apologize to those I have left off this list). I have read all of those textbooks (including most editions) and each has its strengths and weaknesses.
Nonetheless, in my opinion the best general textbook written to date on the topic of handwriting identification was done by co-authors Roy A. Huber and A.M. (Tom) Headrick, both long-time document examiners in the R.C.M. Police laboratory system.
That textbook is Handwriting Identification: Facts and Fundamentals.
The 2014 ASQDE–ASFDE conference included an interesting panel discussion with the title “Conclusions… Signature and Handwriting Conclusion Terminology and Scales”. I was fortunate to be able to take part, albeit only remotely via Skype.
The abstract for the session was as follows:
A current and global issue in our field is the topic of conclusion terminology and conclusion scales, particularly in respect of signature and handwriting conclusions. It is an important yet difficult topic to address because, while there is some commonality in the conclusion scales used in different geographical regions around the world, within a number of geographical regions there are multiple scales in use. It is for this very reason that it is also a topic in great need of discussion and there is a strong argument that we should attempt to reach a consensus (even if the result is that we agree to disagree).
This panel discussion is a collaboration of insights from numerous colleagues in our field in person, via Skype and in writing from private and government laboratories in geographical regions across the Americas, Australia, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
uring the 2013 ASQDE conference
I had the pleasure to participate in a workshop by Bill Flynn and Kathleen Nicolaides entitled “Forensic Examination of Digital Signatures”. The workshop covered various topics but one part of it involved the production of visual graphs representing digital signature data which was done using a spreadsheet program (MS Excel). A spreadsheet works well for many things but, for this purpose, it was both tedious and unnecessary.
I decided to take a few minutes to write a semi-automated routine that would run in “R”, free open-source software that does this sort of thing very well. Please note that the routine has not been updated since it was first written in 2013, however it should still work for Topaz data (.sig) files.
The routine is available, with some restrictions and caveats, to qualified forensic document examiners and interested researchers / academics. If you would like to get a copy of it, please contact me using the form shown below. Please include enough bio information for me to assess your request and I will get back to you.
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