professional-organization committee that is able to enforce standards. Although professional societies in forensic science have historically not played an active role, the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD) and the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors-Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD-LAB) recently have shown substantial interest in enforcing quality by expanding the ASCLD-LAB accreditation program to include mandatory proficiency testing. ASCLD-LAB must demonstrate that it will actively discharge this role.
Because private professional organizations lack the regulatory authority to require accreditation, further means are needed to ensure compliance with appropriate standards.
Courts should require that laboratories providing DNA typing evidence have proper accreditation for each DNA typing method used. Any laboratory that is not formally accredited and that provides evidence to the courts—e.g., a nonforensic laboratory repeating the analysis of a forensic laboratory—should be expected to demonstrate that it is operating at the same level of standards as accredited laboratories.
Establishing mandatory accreditation should be a responsibility of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), in consultation with the Department of Justice (DOJ). DHHS is the appropriate agency, because it has extensive experience in the regulation of clinical laboratories through programs under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act and has extensive expertise in molecular genetics through the National Institutes of Health. DOJ must be involved, because the task is important for law enforcement.
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) does not appear to receive adequate funds to support proper education, training, and research in the field of forensic DNA typing. The level of funding should be re-evaluated and increased appropriately.
DNA typing in the criminal-justice system has so far been used primarily for direct comparison of DNA profiles of evidence samples with profiles of samples from suspects. However, that application constitutes only the tip of the iceberg of potential law-enforcement applications. If DNA profiles of samples from a population were stored in computer databanks (databases), DNA typing could be applied in crimes without suspects. Investigators could compare DNA profiles of biological evidence samples with profiles in a databank to search for suspects.
In many respects, the situation is analogous to that of latent finger-prints. Originally, latent fingerprints were used for comparing crime-scene evidence with suspects. With the development of the Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems (AFIS) in the last decade, the investigative use