“Putting the Science in Forensic Science” Editorial

AmStat News, the monthly newsletter of the American Statistical Association, published an editorial, “Putting the Science in Forensic Science: Helping Congress and the administration do what is possible” on August 1, 2011. The editorial, written by Clifford Spiegelman, Adina Schwartz, and Kate Philpott, presents recommendations of how to implement forensic science reform proposals that have been pending since at least the 2009 NRC report: Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward.

Their first recommendation is transparency. The writers suggest that all federal laboratories and all other laboratories that receive federal funds or grants or use federal databases (which would include the NC SBI lab) make the following available on the Internet, free of charge: all validation studies, laboratory protocols (e.g., standard operating procedures, quality assurance manuals, methods for estimating uncertainty, and standards for documentation), proficiency testing of the laboratory’s analysts over the past five years, and audit findings with regard to the laboratory’s performance over the past five years.

The NC Department of Justice stated in its press release yesterday, that it is “[d]eveloping a process for making all lab policies, procedures, training materials and accreditation information available to the public online.” According to the SBI lab, the original expected completion date for posting the policy and procedure manuals used by the various sections of the laboratory was April 1, 2011. No procedures have been posted to date. I have posted all policies and procedures that I have access to here; however, I cannot guarantee that they are complete or up to date. Until they are posted by the DOJ, if you need lab policies and procedures for a case you’re working on, I suggest requesting them through the discovery process or you can try contacting the Department of Justice. Please let me know if you find an efficient means of accessing them.

Click here to read the rest of the authors’ recommendations regarding the need for forensic science research and education.

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2 Comments

Filed under Crime Labs

2 responses to ““Putting the Science in Forensic Science” Editorial

  1. Today the policies and procedures for most sections of the SBI lab were posted on the DOJ website (www.ncdoj.gov).
    Here is a link:
    http://www.ncdoj.gov/getdoc/673acad5-c9f2-4f40-a392-b7a8786a312b/Crime-Laboratory-Documentation.aspx

    • Frederic Whitehurst

      I went to the DOJ cite and called up the protocol for the FTIR under the drug section. The FTIR willl be “calibrated” monthly with polystyrene substastandard and then three controlled substances will be run and if their spectra “substantially” agree the instrument will remain in service. “Substantially” is not further defined and offers a serious vulnerability to this protocol. When the polystyrene standard is run its peaks must agree within plus or minus .5 cm-1. And yet when a controlled nce is run there is no defined standard other than “substantially.” Why?

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