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Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
incident response communities should handle investigations. Instead, they provide principles for establishing policies and procedures.24
In accordance with ISO/IEC 17025, which states that all technical procedures used by a science laboratory should be fully validated before they are used in casework, the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes has developed a guidance document for its member laboratories to use in validating techniques employed in forensic casework.25
The FBI initiated the first Scientific Working Groups (SWGs) in the early 1990s to facilitate consensus around forensic science operations among federal, state, and local agencies.26 Each SWG has a formal structure and functions in accordance with its bylaws. Membership is at the discretion of the chair of the working group. Most SWGs include members from both public and private organizations. Meetings held at least once a year allow SWG members to discuss issues of concern and reach consensus on documents drafted throughout the year. The SWGs create, prepare, and publish standards and guidelines for their constituents in the forensic science community. These documents provide crime laboratories a basis for operational requirements, although the committee found that some standards and guidelines lack the level of specificity needed to ensure consistency. However, enforcement of the guidelines is left to the appropriate governing agency and each group’s internal policies. The SWGs generate voluntary guidelines and protocols, which carry no force of law. Nonetheless, the SWGs have been a source of improved standards for the forensic science disciplines and represent the results of a profession that is working to strengthen its professional services with only limited resources.
The FBI Laboratory currently sponsors the following groups:
Scientific Working Group for Firearms and Toolmarks (SWGGUN)
Scientific Working Group for Forensic Document Examination (SWGDOC)
Scientific Working Group for Materials Analysis (SWGMAT)
Scientific Working Group on Bloodstain Pattern Analysis (SWGSTAIN)
Scientific Working Group on DNA Analysis Methods (SWGDAM)
Scientific Working Group on Dog and Orthogonal Detector Guidelines (SWGDOG)
Scientific Working Group on the Forensic Analysis of Chemical Terrorism (SWGFACT)
B. Guttman. National Institute of Standards and Technology National Software Reference Library. Presentation to the committee. September 21, 2007.
European Network of Forensic Science Institutes Standing Committee for Quality and Competence (QCC). 2006. Validation and Implementation of (New) Methods.