It’s not often you get to go on a business trip that offers the opportunity to update your will, learn what to do if you’re kidnapped and how to recognise a minefield, receive a marriage proposal and drink coffee flavoured with cardamom, but that’s just what ESR Firearms Examiner Gerhard Weavers faced up to on some recent travel.
Following an invitation from the United Nations, Gerhard spent two weeks in Palestine helping train firearm and toolmark examiners from the Palestinian Civil Police (PCP) as part of a project funded by the Canadian government.
The Firearm and Toolmarks Section shares a floor with the Documents and Chemistry Sections of the PCP building in the city of Ramallah, which is located in the central West Bank about 10k north of Jerusalem.
Gerhard says the sections seemed to be well supplied with new equipment and instruments but there some unique challenges to overcome.
“For example there was a new Fourier transform infrared spectrometer (FTIR) with a microscope attachment but they’d never been shown how to use it.
“The collection of reference material is also difficult for them as they have limited ability to purchase firearms and ammunition (there are no gun stores in Palestine where they can purchase firearms and ammunition).
“Even materials for making test toolmarks, such as lead and aluminium sheet were difficult to obtain, but they have purchased a new comparison macroscope which is a very nice instrument indeed,” Gerhard says.
There were six trainee examiners in the Firearm and Toolmark section consisting of three Lieutenants, a Major and two Lieutenant Colonels, however most had no prior firearm and toolmark experience.
“I found the team to be enthusiastic and interested in what they were being taught and apart from my accent, which caused great hilarity, communication wasn’t a problem.
“I was also asked to be a mentor to the section leader and hope that agreeing to this will provide some continuity and oversight to future improvements,” Gerhard says.
“Overall I found the Palestinians very friendly and generous and keen to show me their country. They couldn’t do enough for me while I was there and I never had any security issues nor felt unsafe at any time,” he says.