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Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
In addition, accrediting organizations typically offer education and training programs to help the participating entities comply with the standards. Accreditation cannot guarantee high quality—that is, it cannot guard against those who intentionally disobey or ignore requirements. However, over time it can reduce the likelihood that violations will occur, and reports of infractions should trigger increased scrutiny by an accrediting body. And, by requiring that education be a standard that must be met as a condition of accreditation, incremental change and quality improvement can be achieved individual by individual.
Development of Current Forensic Laboratory Accrediting Organizations
In the 1970s, FBI Director Clarence Kelley and FBI Laboratory Director Briggs White organized a group of crime laboratory directors that eventually became known as the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors, or ASCLD. ASCLD’s Committee on Laboratory Evaluation and Standards was focused on developing quality assurance standards, and in 1981 the ASCLD/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) was formed. In 1988, it was officially incorporated as a not-for-profit organization.
In 1994, the passage of the DNA Identification Act established a DNA Advisory Board (DAB) to develop and enforce quality assurance standards for crime laboratories seeking access to the FBI’s national database of DNA profiles (see below). The DAB recommended that crime laboratories seek accreditation as quickly as possible. According to the Crime Lab Report, “Because ASCLD/LAB policies and procedures would not allow accreditation to be awarded to a single work unit, laboratories that were not prepared to undergo a full ASCLD/LAB accreditation assessment seemed to have no other alternative but to forfeit access to the DNA database until they were ready for a full accreditation audit.”8
In 1995, the private not-for-profit corporation National Forensic Science Technology Center (NFSTC) was formed by the ASCLD executive board for training, education, and support of accreditation.9NFSTC could support and assist crime laboratories preparing for a full ASCLD/LABaccreditation as well as audit and temporarily certify DNA units that complied with DNA-specific quality assurance standards.10,11 NFSTC subsequently formed a new independent accreditation corporation, Forensic Quality Services (FQS), with the idea that its program would be based on