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Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
Forensic laboratories should establish routine quality assuranceand quality control procedures to ensure the accuracy of forensicanalyses and the work of forensic practitioners. Quality controlprocedures should be designed to identify mistakes, fraud, andbias; confirm the continued validity and reliability of standardoperating procedures and protocols; ensure that best practices arebeing followed; and correct procedures and protocols that arefound to need improvement.
Codes of Ethics
A number of forensic science organizations—such as AAFS, the Mid-western Association of Forensic Scientists, ASCLD, and NAME—have adopted codes of ethics. The codes that exist are sometimes comprehensive, but they vary in content. While there is no reason to doubt that many forensic scientists understand their ethical obligations and practice in an ethical way, there are no consistent mechanisms for enforcing any of the existing codes of ethics. Many jurisdictions do not require certification in the same way that, for example, states require lawyers to be licensed. Therefore, few forensic science practitioners face the threat of official sanctions or loss of certification for serious ethical violations. And it is unclear whether and to what extent forensic science practitioners are required to adhere to ethics standards as a condition of employment.
The National Institute of Forensic Science (NIFS), in consultationwith its advisory board, should establish a national code of ethicsfor all forensic science disciplines and encourage individual societies to incorporate this national code as part of their professionalcode of ethics. Additionally, NIFS should explore mechanisms ofenforcement for those forensic scientists who commit serious ethical violations. Such a code could be enforced through a certificationprocess for forensic scientists.
Insufficient Education and Training
Forensic science examiners need to understand the principles, practices, and contexts of scientific methodology, as well as the distinctive features of their specialty. Ideally, training should move beyond apprentice-like