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Forensic Imaging

The Forensic Imaging Bureau (FIB), which houses some of the most sophisticated and high-tech photography equipment in the world, is an integral part of the Medical Examiner Department (ME).  This 2,713 square foot state-of-the-art facility contains a digital mini-lab, a studio, a computer lab, a video editing room, and a high-speed gun range.  These facilities and this equipment are used to document vital evidence that will help the medical examiners determine the cause of death in cases under investigation.

Leonard Wolf, CFPH, supervisor of the FIB, has been a photographer since 1984.  He became a certified forensic photographer with the International Association for Identification (IAI) in 2006.  There are four full-time staff photographers and as many as two or three students, who serve six-month internships.  Collectively they take more than 10,000 photographs per month, using a wide range of equipment.

The Miami-Dade ME is one of the first departments responsible for documenting evidence to switch from the use of conventional photographs to a digital format.  Since 2006 almost all of the photographs taken have been with the use of digital cameras.  A set of standard operating procedures has been implemented that insures the capturing and processing of digital images in a manner that is acceptable for court purposes.

The FIB’s computer lab uses some of the latest software programs that enable photographers to use computers as a tool to help with the documentation and presentation of evidence.  As examples, with the help of computers still images can be pulled from a surveillance tape for enhancement, 3-D images can be constructed to help determine the path of a bullet or a knife, and a composite overlay of a boot print can be matched against a boot print on the skin of a victim who has been stomped by an assailant.

This is the only medical examiner department in the United States that has its own indoor range that enables high-speed still and motion photography.  The department has a digital video motion picture camera capable of capturing 160,000 pictures per second and a micro flash designed for still photographs that has a flash duration of one-half millionth of a second.  In this range, tests with the weapon used in a crime can take place in a controlled environment.  Results of these tests help demonstrate how close the victim may have been to the shooter, different gas dispersal patterns for different guns, and other important findings.

The FIB’s digital mini-lab can produce color or black and white prints, can scan almost all formats of film and convert the images to digital media, and can process, print, and archive almost all formats of digital media.  All digital images are processed and archived on a stand-alone and secure workstation and server.

Images that are too small to be seen with the naked eye can be recorded with the use of photo-microscopy and photomicrography.  Utilizing this specialized technology allows for the creation of detailed, high-powered images of cross-sectioned tissue, gun cartridge casings or fibers. 

An area of increasing interest involves the taking of photographs with light other than full-spectrum white light.  This includes the use of ultraviolet and infrared lights and filters, a modified digital camera, and a device called a Spex Light.  With the use of these special techniques and equipment, conditions such as surface bruising or deep tissue bruising, and trace evidence, such as semen or blood, can be better detected. 

The FIB staff offers its services not only to doctors but also to various law enforcement agencies.  We know and understand that photography plays a major role in the preservation of events.  Photographs are often the most accurate form of documentation.  Thus the camera becomes one of the most important tools in investigations, because it captures an image clearly and permanently. 

The supervisor of the Forensic Imaging Bureau, Leonard Wolf, can be reached by phone at 305 – 545 – 2496 or by e-mail at lenny@miamidade.gov

Back to Top Page Last Edited: Thu Aug 20, 2015 9:48:32 AM
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Forensic Imaging

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