tion units” or “fingerprint units.” For example, a 2004 study conducted by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD) for NIJ reported that two-thirds of fingerprint identifications take place outside of traditional crime laboratories.25 Insufficient data are available on the size and expertise of this population of forensic examiners who are not employed in publicly funded forensic science laboratories. Therefore, in 2006, a survey instrument modeled after the BJS census was developed by researchers at West Virginia University in collaboration with the International Association for Identification (IAI).26 Its survey was sent to 5,353 IAI U.S. members in April 2007,27 targeting forensic scientists working outside the crime laboratories surveyed by BJS.

Of the units responding to the IAI survey, most were publicly funded (e.g., city, borough, village, town, county, state, or federal), with half working at the local level. Units at the city, borough, village, or town level had a median annual budget of $168,850, compared to $387, 413 at the county level. Half are small units, with one to five full- and part-time employees. The units primarily conduct crime scene investigations, latent print and 10-print examinations, photography, and bloodstain pattern analyses. A smaller number are involved in other forensic functions, such as the analysis of digital evidence, footwear, tire track impressions, firearms, forensic art, questioned documents, polygraph tests, and dental evidence.

For the responding units, the mean number of cases received per year was 2,780. The mean backlog was 9.4 percent of the annual caseload, with the backlog for latent prints being higher, at 12.3 percent of the caseload. More than half of the units report outsourcing work, primarily firearms, latent print, and footwear analyses. Although 69 percent of respondents replied that they had some system for verifying results, only 15 percent are accredited.


Several federal agencies either provide support for forensic infrastructure, certification, and training, or conduct or fund forensic science in support of their missions. Brief descriptions follow.


American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors. 2004. 180-Day Study Report: Status and Needs United States Crime Laboratories. Available at www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/213422.pdf.


Witt, op. cit.


Ibid. Of the 815 surveys returned, 308 represented responses from active forensic service provider organizations (i.e., only 1 response per organization was included) outside of publicly funded crime laboratories.

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