On 20 November 2020, the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC), in collaboration with the Governments of Barbados, Guyana, St Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago, hosted a Webinar for Forensic Laboratory Directors and Firearm Examiners on The Impact of COVID-19 on Firearm Examination.

The onset of the COVI-19 pandemic has affected every type of workplace, however, little has been done to identify the unique challenges for forensic firearm examination or the mitigating strategies employed by forensic ballistic laboratories. The COVID-19 Webinar explored the challenges faced by Caribbean forensic ballistic laboratories in light of the pandemic, the steps taken to mitigate the transmission of the disease and good practices implemented in forensic ballistic laboratories around the world.

The Webinar also reviewed findings from research conducted by UNLIREC’s Forensic Ballistics Technical Advisor on the topic across forensic ballistic laboratories in the United States, Europe and the Caribbean. During the webinar, UNLIREC shared key responses to survey questions received from 38 laboratories, in 25 countries on challenges faced and good practices implemented to mitigate COVID-19 transmission and ensure an efficient working environment. The webinar also provided an opportunity for Laboratory Directors and Senior firearm examiners from the participating countries to share their experiences on managing staff during the pandemic, firearms caseload management, sanitization and protective measures to mitigate transmission, and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) being implemented to ensure a safe and efficient working environment.

In total, 25 firearms examiners, including 7 women, from Royal Bahamas Police Force, Royal Barbados Police Force, Royal St Christopher and Nevis Police Force, Guyana Forensic Science Laboratory, Trinidad and Tobago Forensic Science Centre, and Trinidad and Tobago Police Service participated in the webinar.

The webinar forms part of the Phase 3 of the Operational Forensic Ballistics technical assistance provided to the Caribbean States, with the financial support of the Government of the United States.

UNLIREC, as the regional organ of the UN Office for Disarmament, seeks to advance the cause of practical disarmament in Latin America and the Caribbean as part of its commitment to support Member States in their implementation of international disarmament instruments, in particular, the 2001 UN Programme of Action on Small Arms.