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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.  This 2,713 square foot, state-of-the-art facility contains a Digital Mini-Lab, a black & white and color darkroom, 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 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 County Medical Examiner Department 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 high-speed motion picture camera that can operate from 100 to 40,000 frames per second, a micro flash designed for still photographs that has a flash duration of one-half millionth of a second.  The newest addition to this high speed equipment is a digital video motion picture camera capable of capturing 160,000 pictures per 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.

FIB has its own E-6 and C-41 processors, which allow for the development of all slide and negative films within the Department.  The FIB maintains conventional processing equipment for those instances when it is still necessary to use film for in-house photography.  The FIB also acts as a secure forensic photographic laboratory for outside agencies to process their film here in a secure environment.  Color or black and white prints can be made in our darkroom or with the use of the Digital Mini-Lab.  Almost all formats of film can be scanned and converted to digital media, and almost all formats of digital media can be processed, printed, and archived.  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 ultra-violet lights, infrared film, a modified digital camera, and a device called the 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 the 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 contacting 305-545-2496 or by e-mail to Leonard Wolf for further information.

Back to Top Page Last Edited: Tue Mar 27, 2012 3:21:37 PM
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Forensic Imaging

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