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2 The Forensic Science Community and the Need for Integrated Governance Forensic investigations involve intelligence and information gathering, crime scene investigation, laboratory analysis, interpretation of tests and re- sults, and reporting and communication with members of law enforcement and the judicial system. Law enforcement agencies within the United States vary in organizational structure regarding how forensic science examina- tions are conducted and evidence is admitted into court (see Chapter 3). Variations are attributable to the geographical size and population served by the jurisdictional authority, the types and level of crimes encountered, the funding source, and local tradition. In general, however, the foren- sic science community includes crime scene investigators; state and local crime laboratories; medical examiners; private forensic laboratories; law enforcement identification units; resources such as registries and databases; professional organizations; prosecutors and defense attorneys; quality sys- tem providers (i.e., accrediting and certifying organizations); and federal agencies that conduct or support research as well as provide forensic sci- ence services and training. This chapter provides an overview of the major components of the forensic science community. Data about laboratories are based largely on two surveys conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in 2002 and 2005 of publicly funded crime laboratories and a more â J.L. Peterson and M.J. Hickman. 2005. Census of Publicly Funded Forensic Crime Labo- ratories, 2002. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Sta- tistics. Available at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/cpffcl02.pdf; M.R. Durose. 2008. Census of Publicly Funded Forensic Crime Laboratories, 2005. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Available at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/ cpffcl05.pdf. 55
56 STRENGTHENING FORENSIC SCIENCE IN THE UNITED STATES recent survey of ânontraditional forensic service providersâ conducted by researchers at West Virginia University. In addition to forensic laboratories, about 3,200 medical examiner and coroner offices provided death investigation services across the United States in 2004. These entitiesâwhich may comprise a coroner system, a medical examiner system, or a mixed system at the county or state levelâ conduct death scene investigations, perform autopsies, and determine the cause and manner of death when a person has died as a result of violence, under suspicious circumstances, without a physician in attendance, or in other circumstances. These offices are described in greater detail in Chapter 9. In addition, standard setting, accrediting, and certifying organizations are described in greater detail in Chapter 7, and education and training programs are described in Chapter 8. The committeeâs first recommendation, appearing at the end of this chapter, calls for a more central, strategic, and integrated approach to fo- rensic science at the national level. CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION Evidence recovery and interpretation at the crime scene is the essential first step in forensic investigations. Several organizational approaches to crime scene investigation and subsequent forensic laboratory activity exist, sometimes involving a large number of personnel with varied educational backgrounds. Conversely, in some jurisdictions, a single forensic examiner might also be the same investigator who goes to the crime scene, collects evidence, processes the evidence, conducts the analyses, interprets the evi- dence, and testifies in court. In other jurisdictions, the investigators submit the evidence to a laboratory where scientists conduct the analyses and prepare the reports. Crime scene evidence collectors can include uniformed officers, detectives, crime scene investigators, criminalists, forensic scien- tists, coroners, medical examiners, hospital personnel, photographers, and arson investigators. Thus, the nature and process of crime scene investiga- â T.S.Witt, Director, Bureau of Business and Economic Research, West Virginia University. âSurvey of Non-Traditional Forensic Service Providers.â Presentation to the committee. De- cember 6, 2007. â R. Hanzlick, Fulton County Medical Examinerâs Center and Emory University School of Medicine. 2007. âAn Overview of Medical Examiner/Coroner Systems in the United StatesâDevelopment, Current Status, Issues, and Needs.â Presentation to the committee. June 5, 2007. The Bureau of Justice (2004) omits Louisiana and classifies Texas as a medical examiner state, and accordingly reports the total as 1,998. According to Hanzlick, many of Texasâs 254 counties maintain justice of the peace/coroners offices. The total number includes Justices of the Peace in Texas. â B. Fisher, Director, Scientific Services Bureau, Los Angeles County Sheriffâs Department. Presentation to the committee. April 24, 2007.
THE NEED FOR INTEGRATED GOVERNANCE 57 tion varies dramatically across jurisdictions, with the potential for incon- sistent policies and procedures and bias. Some analysts say that the lack of standards and oversight can result in deliberate deception of suspects, witnesses, and the courts; fraud; and âhonest mistakesâ made because of haste, inexperience, or lack of a scientific background. In 1978, the U.S. Supreme Court held for the first time in Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York that a municipal- ity can be held directly liable for violating a personâs constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. section 1983. Partly in response to this liability, most large cities and metropolitan areas created their own professionally trained crime scene units. However, in smaller suburban and rural communities, evidence from a crime scene may be collected and preserved by a patrol officer or investigator. Even in large metropolitan areas, most crime scene investiga- tion units are composed of sworn officers. Recognizing that some agencies did not have the resources to ad- equately train all personnel in crime scene processing, in 2000 the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and its Technical Working Group on Crime Scene Investigation (TWGCSI) developed Crime Scene Investigation: A Guide for Law Enforcement, which stated that âsuccessful implementation of this guide can be realized only if staff possess basic (and in some cases advanced) training in the fundamentals of investigating a crime scene.â However, there remains great variability in crime scene investigation prac- tices, along with persistent concerns that the lack of standards and proper training at the crime scene can contribute to the difficulties of drawing accu- rate conclusions once evidence is subjected to forensic laboratory methods. (See Chapter 5 for a discussion of methodologies and Chapter 7 for further discussion of standards and ethics.) FORENSIC SCIENCE LABORATORIES AND SERVICE PROVIDERS The configuration of forensic laboratories varies by jurisdiction. Some are located within a state police department as part of a statewide system of laboratories and training programs. For example, in Illinois, state law mandates that the laboratory system provide forensic services to law en- forcement agencies in all 102 counties (population 12.7 million). Although the forensic laboratory system is part of the Illinois State Police, 98 percent â SeeJ.I. Thornton. 2006. Crime reconstructionâethos and ethics. In: W.J. Chisum and B.E. Turvey (eds.). Crime Reconstruction. Boston: Elsevier Science, pp. 37-50. â 436 U.S. 658 (1978). â Available at www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/178280.pdf, p. 2.
58 STRENGTHENING FORENSIC SCIENCE IN THE UNITED STATES of the casework completed is for the 1,200 local and county police agencies across the state. Not all forensic services are performed in traditional crime laboratoriesâ they may be conducted by a sworn law enforcement officer with no sci- entific training (e.g., some latent print examiners). Thus, forensic service providers may be located in law enforcement agencies, may be crime scene investigators, or may be a for-profit entity. There are no good data on the entire universe of forensic science entities, although there have been efforts to gather data on publicly funded crime laboratories and nonlaboratory- based providers. The committee could find no data regarding for-profit forensic science service providers, except for DNA laboratories, of which there are approximately 30 in the United States. Publicly Funded Laboratories BJS has conducted two censuses of publicly funded forensic crime laboratories. The first census, administered in 2002, established baseline information on the operations and workload of the Nationâs public crime laboratories. The 2005 census documented changes in workload and back- log that have occurred since the 2002 census. According to the 2005 census, 389 publicly funded forensic crime laboratories were operating in the United States in 2005â210 state or regional laboratories, 84 county laboratories, 62 municipal laboratories, and 33 federal laboratories. The estimated budget for all 389 crime laboratories exceeded $1 billion, nearly half of which funded state laboratories. The BJS report cites a total of nearly 2.7 million new cases10 in 2005, including a much larger number of separate requests for forensic services. Some laboratories are full-service facilities; others might conduct only the more common analyses of evidence (see Chapter 5). Funding Sources According to the 2005 BJS census, in addition to federal, state, or local support, 28 percent of publicly funded laboratories charged fees for service, and 65 percent reported receiving some funding from grants. However, funding for laboratories has not increased with increasing demands. Some â J. Johnson, Illinois State Police Forensic Science Center at Chicago. Presentation to the committee. January 25, 2007. â Peterson and Hickman, op. cit. 10â Durose, op. cit. âA âcaseâ is defined as all physical evidence submitted from a single criminal investigation submitted for crime laboratory analysis,â p. 9.
THE NEED FOR INTEGRATED GOVERNANCE 59 laboratory directors appearing before the committee cited budget cuts as high as 22 percent over the past five years.11 Personnel and Equipment The 2005 BJS census estimated that publicly funded crime laboratories employed more than 11,900 full-time equivalent (FTE) personnel in 2005. Most crime laboratories are relatively small: the median staff size in 2005 was 16. Distinctly different professional tracks exist within forensic labo- ratories, ranging from laboratory technicians and general examiners to sci- entists. According to the census data, analysts or examinersâpersons who typically prepare evidence, conduct tests, interpret results, sign laboratory reports, and testify in courtâcomprised 58 percent of all crime laboratory FTEs in 2005. Technical support personnel, who typically assist analysts or examiners in preparing evidence and conducting tests, accounted for 10 percent of all FTEs. Thirteen percent of FTEs were managerial personnel, 8 percent were in clerical positions, and 6 percent were crime scene techni- cians. Similar ranges in the distribution of personnel are evident among lab- oratories by type of jurisdiction served. (The uncertainties in these reported percentages depend on the number of laboratories that responded to the FTE survey questions.) A 2006 NIJ report cited equipment shortages (which may include insufficient equipment maintenance) as a limiting factor in processing cases.12 It cited equipment needs at the 50 largest laboratories in the disciplines of controlled substances, trace evidence, firearms, questioned documents, latent prints, toxicology, and arson. Evidence submission may or may not be automated, depending on the laboratory. Lack of automation increases the time the laboratory spends on logging in evidence. A 2005 survey of public crime laboratories conducted by researchers at the State University of New York at Albany found that the number of FTEs in a laboratory ranged from 2 to 280, with an average of 34, the major- ity of whom have bachelorâs degrees.13 Because of the distinctly different professional tracks within larger laboratories, for example, technicians perform tests with defined protocols, and credentialed scientists conduct specialized testing and interpretation. Unlike many other professions, the forensic science disciplines have no organized control over entry into the profession, such as by degree, boards or exams, or licensure (see Chapter 11â Johnson, op. cit. 12â NIJ. 2006. Status and Needs of Forensic Science Service Providers: A Report to Congress. Available at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/pubs-sum/213420.htm. 13â W.S. Becker, W.M. Dale, A. Lambert, and D. Magnus. 2005. Letter to the editorâForensic lab directorsâ perceptions of staffing issues. Journal of Forensic Sciences 50(5):1255-1257.
60 STRENGTHENING FORENSIC SCIENCE IN THE UNITED STATES 7). Control mechanisms traditionally have been held through employment and job function.14 Of the laboratories surveyed by the State University of New York at Albany, only 21 percent reported having a sufficient number of FTEs to complete their workload. The authors concluded that âas total number of cases increases, scientists do not have proper equipment, enough time, adequate resources, enough information from the DA [district attorney], enough time to prepare for courtroom testimony, and the needed resources to provide courtroom testimony.â15 In addition, âas casework capacity in- creases, pressure to complete cases too quickly increases significantly, and pressure to extend opinions beyond the scientific method and pressure to get a particular result also increases significantly.â16 The National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME) also reports acute personnel shortages in the death investigation system, with a critical need for significantly more board-certified forensic pathologists than are currently available. (See Chapter 9 for a discussion of the medicolegal death investigation system.) Laboratory Functions According to the 2002 BJS data, almost all public crime laboratories examine controlled substances (90 percent). Sixty-three percent examine firearms and toolmarks, 65 percent screen biological samples (usually in preparation for DNA analysis on selected exhibits), and 61 percent exam- ine latent prints.17 Fifty-nine percent of laboratories examine one or more forms of trace evidence (e.g., hairs, fibers, glass, or paint). Fewer laborato- ries examine questioned documents (26 percent) or conduct computer crime investigations (11 percent). As would be expected, larger laboratories are able to perform a broader range of examinations. In terms of crime scene investigation, 62 percent of laboratories report having sent examiners directly to crime scenes, although most forensic ex- aminers did not visit crime scenes. Twenty-five percent of the laboratories reported that laboratory personnel also served as crime scene investiga- tors. However, more than half of laboratories (62 percent) reported that agencies or persons not affiliated with the laboratory handled most major investigationsâusually a police unit with specialized evidence technicians 14â D.S. Stoney. Chief Scientist, Stoney Forensic, Inc. Presentation to the committee. January 26, 2007. 15â Becker, et al., op. cit., p. 1255. 16â Ibid., p. 1256. 17â Peterson and Hickman, op. cit.
THE NEED FOR INTEGRATED GOVERNANCE 61 or crime scene search officers who go onsite to take photographs and locate, preserve, label, and gather physical evidence. CASE BACKLOGS According to the 2005 BJS data, the Nationâs 389 crime laboratories received an estimated 2.7 million new cases during 2005. Almost half were submitted to state laboratories. Laboratories serving local jurisdictions received about 1.3 million cases in 2005, including 727,000 cases received by county laboratories and 566,000 by municipal laboratories. An estimated 359,000 cases were backlogged (not completed within 30 days) at the end of 2005, compared to 287,000 at yearend 2002. This represents a 24 percent increase in backlogged cases between 2002 and 2005. State laboratories accounted for more than half of the backlog in both years. Among the 288 laboratories that reported this information, the median number of cases received in 2005 was about 4,100. Overall, laboratories ended the year with a median backlog of about 400 cases. Six percent of laboratories that received cases in 2005 reported having no backlog at yearend.18 In 2005, federal laboratories received the fewest cases. Fifty-one percent of the laboratories reported outsourcing one or more types of forensic services to private laboratories in 2005, primarily DNA casework, toxicology, Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) samples, and controlled substances. In a communication with the committee, Los Angeles County Sheriffâs Department Crime Laboratory Director Barry Fisher warned that to man- age backlogs, laboratories triage cases: Murders, rapes, aggravated assaults and the like have priority, as do cases going to court, cases where a suspect is being held on an arrest warrant, highly publicized cases, etc. Property crimes, such as burglaries, are often far down the list. This makes the likelihood of examining evidence from property crime cases unlikely. Oddly, the police and prosecutors are rarely consulted about how priorities are determined. The use of triage is the labâs best effort to manage its own scarce resources. Another factor at play in case management is that the âsqueaky wheel gets the grease.â This means that a persistent investigator who calls the lab often enough will get his case done more quickly than the investigator who just sends the case down to the lab expecting that it will be done.19 18â Ibid., pp. 3, 4. The committee notes that the 30-day turnaround metric is an arbitrary metric useful for comparative purposes only. 19â Letter to the committee from B.A.J. Fisher. June 12, 2007.
62 STRENGTHENING FORENSIC SCIENCE IN THE UNITED STATES Fisher also cautioned that backlog data are not entirely reliable, saying that one of the reasons for the lack of data is that laboratories count back- logs, case submissions, tests, output, and outcomes differently. Additionally, many laboratories lack automated information management systems to âcapture the very data that might support their case for more assistance.â20 Finally, it is difficult to track cases for which forensic work has moved all the way through the criminal justice system: Police, prosecutors, and foren- sic laboratories use different tracking systems. NIJâS COVERDELL FORENSIC SCIENCE IMPROVEMENT GRANT PROGRAM Through the Paul Coverdell National Forensic Science Improvement Act (P.L. 106-561), the Justice Department operates the Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grants Program (the Coverdell program), which awards grants to states and units of local government to help im- prove the quality and timeliness of forensic science and medical examiner services.21 The program provides funding for expenses related to facilities, personnel, equipment, computerization, supplies, accreditation, certifica- tion, and education and training. In 2004, the Justice for All Act (P.L. 108-405) expanded the Coverdell program, with the aim of reducing the backlog. A state or unit of local government that receives a Coverdell grant must use the grant for one or more of three purposes: (1) carry out all or a substantial part of a program intended to To improve the quality and timeliness of forensic science or medical examiner services in the state, including those services provided by laboratories operated by the state and those operated by units of local government within the state. (2) eliminate a backlog in the analysis of forensic science evidence, To including, among other things, a backlog with respect to firearms examination, latent prints, toxicology, controlled substances, fo- rensic pathology, questioned documents, and trace evidence. (3) train, assist, and employ forensic laboratory personnel as needed To to eliminate such a backlog.22 20â Ibid. 21â P.L. 106-561 (December 21, 2000). An Act to improve the quality, timeliness, and cred- ibility of forensic science services for criminal justice purposes and for other purposes. Cited as the Paul Coverdell National Forensic Sciences Improvement Act. 22â See www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/topics/forensics/nfsia/welcome.htm.
THE NEED FOR INTEGRATED GOVERNANCE 63 The expectation for those receiving grants is âdemonstrated improve- ment over current operations in the quality and/or timeliness of forensic science or medical examiner services provided in the state, including ser- vices provided by laboratories operated by the state and services provided by laboratories operated by units of local government within the State.â23 The output measures for Coverdell awards are: (1) Change in the number of days between submission of a sample to a forensic science laboratory and delivery of test results to a request- ing office or agency. (2) The number of backlogged forensic cases analyzed with Coverdell funds, if applicable to the grant. (3) The number of forensic science or medical examiner personnel who completed appropriate training or educational opportunities with Coverdell funds, if applicable to the grant.24 States may be eligible for both âbaseâ (formula) and competitive funds from NIJ for forensic science programs. Units of local government within states may be eligible for competitive funds and may apply directly to NIJ. The Coverdell law (42 U.S.C. Â§ 3797k(4)) requires that, to request a grant, an applicant for Coverdell funds must submit: â¢ certification and description regarding a plan for forensic science A laboratories. â¢ certification regarding use of generally accepted laboratory A practices. â¢ A certification and description regarding costs of new facilities. â¢ certification regarding external investigations into allegations of A serious negligence or misconduct. Program funding was $10 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2004, $15 mil- lion in FY 2005, and $18.5 million in FY 2006. Funds may be used for personnel, computerization, laboratory equipment, supplies, accreditation, education, training, certification, or facilities. FORENSIC SERVICES BEYOND THE TRADITIONAL LABORATORY Many forensic examiners do not work in a traditional crime laboratory. Often they work within law enforcement offices in units called âidentifica- 23â Ibid. 24â Ibid.
64 STRENGTHENING FORENSIC SCIENCE IN THE UNITED STATES tion unitsâ or âfingerprint units.â 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 Interna- tional 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 work- ing 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. FEDERAL FORENSIC SCIENCE ACTIVITIES Several federal agencies either provide support for forensic infrastruc- ture, certification, and training, or conduct or fund forensic science in sup- port of their missions. Brief descriptions follow. 25â American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors. 2004. 180-Day Study Report: Sta- tus and Needs United States Crime Laboratories. Available at www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/ grants/213422.pdf. 26â Witt, op. cit. 27â 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.
THE NEED FOR INTEGRATED GOVERNANCE 65 Federal Forensic Science Laboratories The largest publicly funded forensic laboratory in the country is the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia. Other federal agencies have smaller crime laboratories, for example, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Army, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (known as ATF), the U.S. Postal Service, the Internal Revenue Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In addition, the Department of Commerceâs National In- stitute of Standards and Technology (NIST) conducts research in support of standard setting for gunshot residue analysis, trace explosives detectors, DNA analysis, and more. Some of these efforts are described below. The FBI Laboratory The types of cases investigated by the FBI include terrorism, espionage, public corruption, civil rights, criminal organizations and enterprises, white collar crime, and violent crime. Investigative case work services include those involving: â¢ chemistry â¢ cryptanalysis and racketeering records â¢ DNA analysis â¢ explosives â¢ evidence response â¢ firearms-toolmarks â¢ hazardous materials â¢ investigative and prosecutive graphics â¢ latent prints â¢ photographic operations and imaging services â¢ questioned documents â¢ structural design â¢ trace evidence â¢ specialty units According to the 2005 BJS report, the FBI Laboratory had approxi- mately 600 employees in 2005, and it partners with state and local crime laboratories throughout the country. Its FY 2007 budget was $63 million. The FBI Laboratory provides a full range of forensic services and handles a large volume of fingerprint work, receiving approximately 50,000 finger- print submissions every day. In July 1999, the FBI updated its fingerprint databases with the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). Previously, all prints arrived on paper fingerprint cards that had to
66 STRENGTHENING FORENSIC SCIENCE IN THE UNITED STATES be processed by hand. With the introduction of IAFIS, prints and pictures can be submitted electronically. According to the 2005 BJS census, the FBI laboratory began 2003 with an estimated backlog of 3,062 requests for forensic services. About two-thirds of the backlog was attributable to latent print requests. During 2003, the FBI laboratory received 6,994 new requests and completed 7,403 requests. The estimated year end backlog was 2,653 requests, a 13 percent reduction over the previous year. Latent print requests comprised half of the year end 2003 backlog. No data were provided in the 2005 census. By the end of the first quarter of 2004, the FBI Laboratory reported a total backlog of 2,585 requests. This included 1,216 latent print requests, or 47 percent of the total. The FBI Laboratory reported a need for additional equipment and 249 additional FTEs in order to have achieved a 30-day turnaround on all 2003 requests. The cost of the additional equipment was estimated to be $40 million. Based on starting salaries for analyst/Âexaminers, the estimated cost of the additional FTEs exceeds $17.5 million. The FBI Laboratory also has working partnerships with the forensic science communityâs Scientific Working Groups (SWGs) that are tasked with generating guidelines and standards for specific forensic disciplines (see Chapter 7). The FBI also provides training for the forensic science com- munity and conducts and funds research (see later discussion). In addition, the FBI collects and maintains data and materials for mul- tiple databases and registries (see Box 2-1). The largest is CODIS, which is composed of three components: the forensic database, the missing persons database, and the convicted felon database. The FBI CODIS Unit is respon- sible for developing, providing, and supporting the CODIS Program to federal, state, and local crime laboratories in the United States and selected international law enforcement crime laboratories to foster the exchange and comparison of forensic DNA evidence from violent crime investigations. The CODIS Unit also provides administrative management and support to the FBI for various advisory boards, Department of Justice (DOJ) grant programs, and legislation regarding DNA. U.S. Secret Service (Department of Homeland Security [DHS]) The U.S. Secret Service laboratory examines evidence, develops investi- gative leads, and provides expert courtroom testimony. As part of the 1994 Crime Bill (P.L. 103-322), Congress mandated that the U.S. Secret Service provide forensic/technical assistance in matters involving missing and ex- ploited children. On April 30, 2003, President George W. Bush signed the PROTECT Act of 2003 (P.L. 108-21), known as the âAmber Alert Bill,â which gave full authorization to the U.S. Secret Service in this area. The
THE NEED FOR INTEGRATED GOVERNANCE 67 Box 2-1 FBI Databases and Reference Libraries The CODIS Program consists of the development, enhancement, and sup- port of software that enables forensic DNA laboratories to store, maintain, and search DNA profiles from crime scenes, offenders, and missing persons. Support of the CODIS software includes training for DNA analysts and help-desk services, as well as a yearly national meeting for all CODIS administrators. The unit also provides CODIS software to international law enforcement laboratories to assist them in establishing a DNA database program. Forty law enforcement laboratories in 25 countries now have the CODIS software. CODIS consists of a three-tiered hierarchy of databases: the NDIS [National DNA Index System], the State DNA Index System, and the Local DNA Index System. The highest level in the CODIS hierarchy is NDIS, which contains the DNA profiles contributed by participating federal, state, and local forensic DNA laboratories. There are more than 170 NDIS participating sites across the United States, including the FBI Laboratory, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory, and a laboratory in Puerto Rico. The NDIS contains 6.2 million offender profiles and 233,454 forensic profiles as of August 2008. Its operation requires determining the eligibility of samples for the National Index in accordance with applicable federal law, developing proce- dures for laboratories participating in the Index, and monitoring the participating laboratoriesâ compliance with federal law. The CODIS Unit also provides adminis- trative management and support for the NDIS Procedures Board and other DNA working groups. As of August 2008, CODIS has produced more than 74,500 hits, assisting in more than 74,700 investigations.a The National Automotive Paint File contains entries dating as far back as the 1930s. The Paints and Polymers Subunit also serves as the U.S. repository for the Paint Data Query database, which is a Canadian database. State and local law enforcement agencies investigating hit-and-run homicides rely on both the National Automotive Paint File and the Paint Data Query database. The FBI Explosives Reference File contains several thousand standards that help examiners identify the components and manufacturers of explosive and in- cendiary devices. The Explosives Reference Tools database (EXPeRT) combines the text of FBI Laboratory reports with evidentiary photographs from bombing cases and permits the rapid retrieval of information on any aspect of the forensic examination. The database also contains manufacturer data and open-source literature on the construction and use of explosives and explosive devices. An examiner can search EXPeRT, find similar devices, and identify similarities in the components used in the construction of an improvised explosive device.8 The Reference Firearms Collection contains more than 5,500 handguns and shoulder firearms; and the Standard Ammunition File, a collection of more than 15,000 military and commercial ammunition specimens from both domestic and international manufacturers. aSee www.fbi.gov/hq/lab/codis/clickmap.htm. SOURCE: FBI Web site at www.fbi.gov/hq/lab/html/ipgu1.htm.
68 STRENGTHENING FORENSIC SCIENCE IN THE UNITED STATES forensic services utilized by the Secret Service include identification, forensic automation, polygraph, questioned documents, and visual information. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) The ATF Laboratories reside within DOJ. Currently, the ATF Labo- ratories have more than 100 employees working in 4 laboratories in 3 cities. In FY 2005, ATF Laboratories performed more than 2,600 forensic examinations with an authorized staff of 106 positions and a budget of approximately $16 million. In FY 2006, the ATF Laboratories: â¢ analyzed 64 samples related to alcohol and tobacco diversion; â¢ processed 3,086 forensic cases; â¢ spent 171 days providing expert testimony in the courts; â¢ spent 242 days at crime scenes; and â¢ pent 371 days providing training to federal, state, and local inves- s tigators and examiners. A new $135 million National Laboratory Center in suburban Maryland was opened in 2003. The National Laboratory Center contains a unique fire testing facility, designed to support fire investigations. Each ATF Labora- tory also has a mobile laboratory designed to support the examination of evidence at the scene of a fire or explosion. In FY 2006, ATF established a DNA analysis capability at the National Laboratory Center.28 The Labo- ratories are ASCLD/Laboratory Accreditation Board (LAB) accredited in the disciplines of trace evidence, biology (serology only), questioned docu- ments, firearms/toolmarks, and latent prints. In a 2006 semiannual report from the DOJ Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the OIGâs Audit Division evaluated whether the ATF Labo- ratories managed workloads effectively to provide timely services to ATF field divisions. The audit report stated the following: Our audit found that processing times have not significantly improved in the past 4 years. Two-thirds of completed forensic examinations continued to take more than 30 days to complete and about one-third of examina- tions took more than 90 days. Improvements in the timeliness of laboratory examinations have been limited because ATF has not accomplished actions it committed to in 2001, such as increasing the number of examiner positions in the forensic laboratories, implementing a new priority system, implementing a new 28â See www.atf.treas.gov/labs/index.htm.
THE NEED FOR INTEGRATED GOVERNANCE 69 information management system, and significantly reducing the size of its backlog of examination requests. Laboratory staffing generally was adequate to manage the incoming workload, but backlogged requests continued to interfere with the timely analysis of incoming examination requests. The audit found that the backlog could increase as a result of unusually resource-intensive cases. We concluded that if these conditions are not addressed serious consequences may result, such as delays in mak- ing arrests and bringing offenders to trial.29 Department of Defense (DOD) DODâs forensic requirements are growing beyond the traditional realm of criminal investigations, casualty investigations, and medical examiner functions toward more intelligence and counterintelligence functions. DODâs activities are primarily mission oriented, but they also serve specific func- tional roles in criminal investigations. A DOD Forensic Sciences Committee provides advice on forensic science activities across the department. Like other crime laboratories, DOD has capabilities in most of the fo- rensic science disciplines. Its major forensic entities include the Criminal In- vestigation Laboratory, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, the Cyber Crime Center ($20 million annually), and the Central Identification Labora- tory ($1 million annually), all of which are ASCLD/LAB accredited.30 The Army also maintains the Armed Forces Repository of Specimen Samples for the Identification of Remains, with more than 5 million DNA samples primarily from military service members. It also maintains a searchable database of DNA profiles from detainees and known or suspected terror- ists. The Criminal Investigation Laboratory provides worldwide forensic laboratory services, training, and research and development (R&D) to all DOD investigative agencies. DOD currently is developing a âDefense Forensic Enterprise Systemâ to more centrally manage, integrate, and coordinate across the Services for both criminal investigation and warfighter operations, as well as to serve homeland security functions.31 Part of the system is the Joint Expeditionary Forensic Facilities, which are modular by design for deployment purposes 29â Office of the Inspector General. Semiannual Report to Congress, October 1, 2005-March 31, 2006. April 8, 2006. Available at www.usdoj.gov/oig/semiannual/0605/message.htm. Also see U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General Audit Division, Audit Report 06-15. March 2006. Follow-Up Audit of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Ex- plosives Forensic Science Laboratories Workload Management. 30â L.C. Chelko, Director, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory. Presentation to the committee. September 21, 2007. 31â R. Tontarski, Chief, Forensic Analysis Division, CID Command, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory. Presentation to the committee. September 21, 2007.
70 STRENGTHENING FORENSIC SCIENCE IN THE UNITED STATES but which are also designed for expansion to full-spectrum analyses. The Defense Forensic Network connects all DOD forensic operations virtually and synchronizes worldwide DOD forensic operations. A Forensic Training and Research Academy is responsible for all DOD forensic examiner train- ing and serves as DODâs certification authority. In addition to conducting its own research, DOD partners with academia, industry, and other federal agencies. It is collaborating with the National Forensic Science Technology Center to leverage its work in deployable forensic instrumentation and technologies and with NIJ on technology transfer strategies. National Bioforensic Analysis Center (NBFAC), DHS NBFAC is a component of the National Biodefense Analysis and Coun- termeasures Center (NBACC), which is operated by a contractor on behalf of DHS, with a proposed budget of $28.3 million for FY 2009. NBFAC and NBACC are not federal agencies. Their prime customer for their services is the FBI. They do not perform complete forensic analyses on evidence from biocrimes and bioterrorism; they do perform or direct the performance (by one or more of their affiliated laboratories) of analyses targeting biological materials and biotoxins. NBFAC provides the laboratories and training for FBI Laboratory examiners in several disciplines to safely and effectively conduct their standard examinations on contaminated traditional evidence. It is also charged with establishing and maintaining reference collections of biological agents.32 National Counterproliferation Center The National Counterproliferation Center, a policy and program over- sight organization within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, is seeking to bring a unified, strategic perspective to microbial forensics (bioforensics) research and development and its application to intelligence purposes. Microbial forensics is a âdeveloping interdisciplinary field of microbiology devoted to the development, assessment, and validation of methods to fully characterize microbial samples for the ultimate purpose of high confidence comparative analysis.â33 32â J. Burans, Bioforensics Program Manager, National Bioforensics Analysis Center. Presen- tation to the committee. September 21, 2007. 33â C.L. Cooke, Jr., Office of the Deputy Director for Strategy and Evaluation, National Counterproliferation Center. Presentation to the committee. September 21, 2007.
THE NEED FOR INTEGRATED GOVERNANCE 71 RESEARCH FUNDING Nearly all forensic science research funds are channeled through DOJ. NIJ and the FBI are the two primary federal sources of funding for forensic science research. National Institute of Justice (NIJ) NIJ provides the bulk of funds for research. The BJS 2002 census found that of the 12 percent of laboratories that had resources dedicated to re- search, the primary source of funding for this research was NIJ. NIJ has two operating offices: (1) the Office of Research and Evaluation develops, conducts, directs, and supervises research and evaluation activities across a wide variety of issues and (2) the Office of Science and Technology manages technology research and development, the development of techni- cal standards, testing, forensic science capacity building, and technology assistance to state and local law enforcement and corrections agencies.34 NIJâs forensic science programs relevant to research include the Presidentâs DNA Initiative; General Forensics R&D; the Forensic Resource Network; and Electronic Crime. These programs vary in their direct support of re- search. Research decisions are managed through a peer-review process.35 Total expenditures for forensic research were $78 million in FY 2002, but they decreased to $33 million by FY 2009. According to John Morgan, Deputy Director, NIJ, the agency is able to fund 5 to 7 percent of the ap- plications submitted.36 Commentators have noted that NIJ funds often are not awarded to working members of the forensic science community.37 In 2003, the President announced a five-year, $1 billion initiative to im- prove the use of DNA in the criminal justice system. The Presidentâs DNA Initiative pushed for increased funding, training, and assistance to ensure that DNA technology âreaches its full potential to solve crimes, protect the innocent, and identify missing persons.â38 Congress has appropriated more than $300 million to date for the initiative, although only a small fraction is directed toward research. Since 2003, DOJ has made grants in excess of $26 million for new research on forensic tools and techniques,39 with grants tending to go to population geneticists, medical geneticists, molecular biolo- 34â See www.ojp.gov/nij/about_rsrchpri.htm#1. 35â J.Morgan, Deputy Director National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Presentation to the committee. January 25, 2007. 36â Ibid. 37â K. Pyrek. 2007. Forensic Science Under Siege: The Challenges of Forensic Laboratories and the Medico-Legal Investigation System. Burlington, MA: Academic Press (Elsevier), p. 448. 38â See www.dna.gov/info/e_summary. 39â Morgan, op. cit.
72 STRENGTHENING FORENSIC SCIENCE IN THE UNITED STATES gists, technology experts, and crime laboratory personnel. The bulk of the funding has gone to state and local law enforcement agencies to support the examination of nearly 104,000 DNA cases from 2004 to 2007 and 2,500,000 convicted offender and arrestee samples, which will be added to the national DNA database. More than 5,000 âhits,â or matches to unknown profiles or other cases, have resulted from these efforts. In 2008, NIJ expects to fund the testing of an additional 9,000 backlogged cases and more that 834,000 backlogged convicted offender and arrestee samples.40 Under the General Forensics R&D Program, 53 awards have been made through 2007 for the development of âtools and technologies that will allow faster, more reliable, more robust, less costly, or less labor-in- tensive identification, collection, preservation, and/or analysis of forensic evidence; tools that provide a quantitative measure or statistical evaluation of forensic comparisons; and identification or characterization of new ana- lytes of forensic importance.â41 In FY 2007, solicitations were issued for proposals in Research and Development on Crime Scene Tools, Techniques, and Technologies; Research and Development on Impression Evidence; Research and Development in the Forensic Analysis of Fire and Arson Evi- dence; and Forensic Toxicology Research and Development. The size of the NIJ research program warrants comparison with other research programs. In FY 2007, NIJ awarded 21 grants for forensic re- search and development (not including awards for DNA research) (see Box 2-2). As will be seen in Chapter 5, the number of open research questions about the more common forensic science methods greatly exceeds 21, and none of these open questions appear to be squarely addressed by the proj- ects listed in Box 2-2. The 2007 NIJ awards totaled nearly $6.6 million, with an average award size of $314,000. As a comparison, in the same year, the National Institutes of Health awarded 37,275 research project grants, averaging $359,000, for a total of $15 billion.42 Also in FY 2007, the National Science Foundation made over 11,500 research project awards for a total of $6.0 billion.43 NIJâs Forensic Resource Network is a system of four forensic centers whose mission is to assist state and local forensic service providers in achiev- ing their service delivery goals through research and development, testing and evaluation, training, technology transfer, and technology assistance. The NIJ Electronic Crime Portfolio addresses âthe practical needs of the criminal justice community in its efforts to respond to electronic crime, 40â Statement of J.S. Morgan, Deputy Director National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary concerning âOversight of the Justice For All Act: Has the Justice Department Effectively Ad- ministered the Bloodsworth and Coverdell DNA Grant Programs?â January 23, 2008. 41â Morgan, 2007, op. cit. 42â See http://report.nih.gov/index.aspx?section=NIHFunding. 43â See www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=105803.
THE NEED FOR INTEGRATED GOVERNANCE 73 aiding/assisting law enforcement in the discovery, analysis, presentation and preservation of digital evidence of probative value.â44 In September 2007, NIJ announced the addition of four Technology Centers of Excellence to serve as resources within their respective technol- ogy focus areas by providing technology assistance to law enforcement personnel as well as by working with technology developers and users to test and evaluate equipment in operational environments. In addition, NIJ set aside $5 million for grants to support the development of forensic sci- ence standards at NIST.45 Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) The FBI Laboratory also receives roughly $33 million per year for its own research. To set priorities, the laboratory consults with its own staff and with working-level scientists in the SWGs they support. The FBIâs Counterterrorism and Forensic Science Research Unit âpro- vides technical leadership/advancement of counterterrorism and forensic sciences for the FBI as well as for state and local law enforcement agencies through the development and validation of new technologies/techniques by both internal and outsourced research efforts and through advanced scientific training in specialized forensic procedures.â46 It fulfills its research mission through two core programs. The Research and Development Program creates and coordinates the development of new forensic techniques, instrumentation, and protocols for FBI Laboratory units to use in terrorism and violent crime cases. The pro- gram focuses its efforts in the areas of DNA analysis, trace organic chemical analysis, toxicology, explosives, fingerprints, drug and materials analysis (e.g., paints, tapes, inks, glass, and metals), database development, anthro- pology, microbial forensics, and field instrumentation. The committee was told that the program publishes some of its results in scientific journals. The Research Partnership Program transfers new forensic technologies and procedures to case-working examiners at state and local crime laboratories through collaborative studies and implements SWG-defined protocols and national forensic databases. Workshops include those involving the use of an automotive carpet fiber database, messenger RNA (mRNA) profiling of human semen, the visualization and identification of pepper spray on evidentiary materials, 1-step purification of DNA from different matrices, and the permanence of friction ridge skin detail. 44â Ibid. 45â J. Morgan, Deputy Director for Science and Technology, NIJ. Presentation to the com- mittee. January 25, 2007. 46â See www.fbi.gov/hq/lab/html/cterror1.htm.
74 STRENGTHENING FORENSIC SCIENCE IN THE UNITED STATES Box 2-2 FY 2007 NIJ Awards for Forensic Science Research and Development Biometric Technologies Automatic Fingerprint Matching Using Extended Feature Set, Michigan State University, $260,038 Selective Feature-Based Quality Measure Plug-In for Iris Recognition System, Indiana University, $84,858 Site-Adaptive Face Recognition at a Distance, General Electric Co., $496,341 Forensic DNA Research and Development A Low-Cost Microfluidic Microarray Instrument for Typing Y-Chromosome Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs), Akonni Biosystems, Inc., $448,466 A Rapid, Efficient and Effective Assay to Determine Species Origin in Biological Materials, Bode Technology Group, Inc., $170,212 DNA Profiling of the Semen Donor in Extended Interval Post-Coital Samples, University of Central Florida, $271,504 Microfabricated Capillary Array Electrophoresis Genetic Analysis for Forensic Short Tandem Repeat DNA Profiling, Regents of the University of California, $592,183 National Institute of Justice Forensic DNA Research and Development, Network Biosystems, Inc., $497,346 National Institute of Justice Forensic DNA Research and Development in Vermont for Fiscal Year 2007,Vermont Department of Public Safety, $112,481 Population Genetics of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) for Forensic Purposes, Yale University, $680,516 Sperm Capture Using Aptamer-Based Technology, Denver, City and County of, $370,813 PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS Numerous professional organizations are focused on the forensic sci- ence disciplines (see Box 2-3). The Consortium of Forensic Science Organi- zations, founded in 2000, includes the largest of these organizationsâthe American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS), ASCLD, ASCLD/LAB, IAI, NAME, and Forensic Quality Services (FQS). AAFS, with 6,000 members worldwide, was founded in 1948. It created and supports the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board, which accredits
THE NEED FOR INTEGRATED GOVERNANCE 75 Tools for Improving the Quality of Aged, Degraded, Damaged or Otherwise Compromised DNA Evidence, Louisiana State University, $580,337 Y Chromosome Whole Genome Analysis Strategies: Improved Detection of Male DNA, University of Central Florida, $324,705 Research and Development on Crime Scene Tools, Techniques and Technologies Detecting Buried Firearms Using Multiple Geophysical Technologies, University of Central Florida, $89,584 Developing Fluorogenic Reagents for Detecting and Enhancing Bloody Fingerprints, Portland State University, $168,904 Electronic Fingerprint Development Device âFuma-Room,â Mountain State University, $61,152 Investigations on the Use of Sample Matrix to Collect and Stabilize Crime Scene Biological Evidence for Optimized Analysis and Room Temperature Storage, California State University, Los Angeles, University Auxiliary Services, $353,449 Rapid Visualization of Biological Fluids at Crime Scenes Using Optical Spectroscopy, University of South Carolina Research Foundation, $382,394 Research and Development on Impression Evidence Analysis of Footwear Impression Evidence, Research Foundation of the State University of New York, $350,172 The Use of Infrared Imaging, a Robust Matching Engine and Associated Algorithms to Enhance Identification of Both 2-D and 3-D Impressions: Phase 1, SED Technology, LLC, $295,247 SOURCE: www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/awards/2007.htm#solvingcoldcaseswithdna. certification organizations.47 Membership includes physicians, attorneys, dentists, toxicologists, physical anthropologists, document examiners, psy- chiatrists, physicists, engineers, criminalists, educators, and others. AAFS sponsors an annual scientific meeting, publishes the Journal of Forensic Sciences, and promotes research, education, and training. It also operates the Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (see Chapter 8 for further discussion).48 47â See www.thefasb.org. 48âB.A. Goldberger, AAFS President-Elect. Presentation to the committee. January 25, 2007.
76 STRENGTHENING FORENSIC SCIENCE IN THE UNITED STATES Box 2-3 Forensic Associations and Societies American Academy of Forensic Sciences American Board of Criminalistics American Board of Forensic Anthropology American Board of Forensic Odontology American Board of Forensic Toxicology American Society for Quality American Society for Testing and Materials American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors American Society of Questioned Document Examiners AOAC International Association of Firearm & Tool Marks Examiners Association of Forensic Quality Assurance Managers California Association of Criminalistics Canadian Society of Forensic Sciences Council of Federal Forensic Crime Laboratory Directors Forensic Science Society International Association for Identification International Association of Arson Investigators International Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts International Association of Coroners and Medical Examiners International Association of Forensic Nurses International Association of Forensic Toxicologists Mid-Atlantic Association of Forensic Scientists Midwestern Association of Forensic Scientists National Association of Medical Examiners National Center of Forensic Science National Forensic Science Technology Center New Jersey Association of Forensic Scientists Northeastern Association of Forensic Scientists Northwest Association of Forensic Scientists Society of Forensic Toxicologists Southern Association of Forensic Science Southwestern Association of Forensic Scientists Wisconsin Association for Identification IAI was founded in 1915 and has 6,700 members worldwide. Its mem- bers tend to be involved at the âfront endâ of the processâcrime scene investigation, evidence collection, and evidence preservation.49 It operates certification programs in seven disciplines and publishes the Journal of 49âJ. Polski, IAI Chief Operations Officer. Presentation to the committee. January 25, 2007.
THE NEED FOR INTEGRATED GOVERNANCE 77 Forensic Identification. The focus of its activities is pattern evidenceâfor example, fingerprint, footwear, tire track, questioned documents, forensic photography, and forensic art. ASCLD/LAB and FQS accredit crime laboratories and are discussed in greater detail in Chapter 7. Chapter 9 describes the activities of NAME. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATION The fragmented nature of the forensic science community makes it dif- ficult to gather data on the entire universe of forensic service entities and ac- tivities, although efforts have been made to collect data on publicly funded crime laboratories and nonlaboratory-based providers. For example, the committee could find no data available on for-profit forensic service provid- ers, other than on DNA laboratories. Thus, attempts to construct effective policies are hampered by the lack of coherent and consistent information on the forensic science infrastructure in the United States. However, the large amount of information provided to the committee by people engaged in the forensic science enterprise and by experts who have studied how well that enterprise functions all points to a system that lacks coordination and that is underresourced in many ways. By using the term âunderresourced,â the committee means to imply all of its dimensions. Existing data suggest that forensic laboratories are underresourced and understaffed, which contributes to a backlog in cases and likely makes it difficult for laboratories to do as much as they could to inform investigations, provide strong evidence for prosecutions, and avoid errors that could lead to imperfect justice. But underresourced also means that the tools of forensic science are not as strong as they could be. The knowledge base that underpins analysis and the interpretation of evi- denceâwhich enable the forensic science disciplines to excel at informing investigations, providing strong evidence for prosecutions, and avoiding errors that could lead to imperfect judgmentâis incomplete in important ways. NIJ is the only federal agency that provides direct support to crime laboratories to alleviate the backlog, and those funds are minimal. The enterprise also is underresourced in the sense that it has only thin ties to an academic research base that could undergird the forensic science disciplines and fill knowledge gaps. This underresourcing limits the ability of the many hard-working and conscientious people in the forensic science community to do their best work. Among the various facets of underresourcing, the committee is most concerned about the knowledge base, which is further examined in Chapter 5. Adding more dollars and people to the enterprise might reduce case back- logs, but it will not address fundamental limitations in the capability of the forensic science disciplines to discern valid information from crime scene
78 STRENGTHENING FORENSIC SCIENCE IN THE UNITED STATES evidence. For the most part, it is impossible to discern the magnitude of those limitations, and reasonable people will differ on their significance. Forensic science research is not well supported, and there is no unified strategy for developing a forensic science research plan across federal agen- cies. Relative to other areas of science, the forensic science disciplines have extremely limited opportunities for research funding. Although the FBI and NIJ have supported some research in the forensic science disciplines, the level of support has been well short of what is necessary for the forensic science community to establish strong links with a broad base of research universi- ties and the national research community. Moreover, funding for academic research is limited and requires law enforcement collaboration, which can inhibit the pursuit of more fundamental scientific questions essential to es- tablishing the foundation of forensic science. Finally, the broader research community generally is not engaged in conducting research relevant to advancing the forensic science disciplines. The forensic science community also is hindered by its extreme disaggregationâmarked by multiple types of practitioners with different levels of education and training and different professional cultures and stan- dards for performance. Many forensic scientists are given scant opportunity for professional activities such as attending conferences or publishing their research, which could help strengthen that professional community. Fur- thermore, the fragmented nature of the forensic science community raises the worrisome prospect that the quality of evidence presented in court, and its interpretation, can vary unpredictably according to jurisdiction. Numerous professional associations are organized around the forensic science disciplines, and many of them are involved in training and education (see Chapter 8) and developing standards and accreditation and certifica- tion programs (see Chapter 7). The efforts of these groups are laudable. However, except for the largest organizations, it is not clear how these associations interact or the extent to which they share requirements, stan- dards, or policies. Thus, there is a need for more consistent and harmonized requirements. In the course of its deliberations and review of the forensic science com- munity, it became obvious to the committee that truly meaningful advances will not come without significant leadership from the federal government. The forensic science community lacks the necessary governance structure to pull itself up from its current weaknesses. Insufficiencies in the current system cannot be addressed simply by increasing the staff within existing crime laboratories and medical examiners offices. Of the many professional societies that serve the forensic science community, none is dominant, and none has clearly articulated the need for change or presented a vision for accomplishing it. And clearly no municipal or state forensic office has the mandate to lead the entire community. The major federal resourcesâNIJ
THE NEED FOR INTEGRATED GOVERNANCE 79 and the FBI Laboratoryâhave provided modest leadership, for which they should be commended. NIJ has contributed a helpful research program and the FBI Laboratory has spearheaded the SWGs. But again, neither entity has recognized, let alone articulated, a need for change or a vision for affecting it. Neither has the full confidence of the larger forensic science community. And because both are part of a prosecutorial department of the govern- ment, they could be subject to subtle contextual biases that should not be allowed to undercut the power of forensic science. The forensic science community needs strong governance to adopt and promote an aggressive, long-term agenda to help strengthen forensic sci- ence. Governance must be strong enoughâand independent enoughâto identify the limitations of forensic science methodologies and must be well connected with the Nationâs scientific research base in order to affect meaningful advances in forensic science practices. The governance structure must be able to create appropriate incentives for jurisdictions to adopt and adhere to best practices and promulgate the necessary sanctions to discour- age bad practices. It must have influence with educators in order to effect improvements to forensic science education. It must be able to identify standards and enforce them. The governance entity must be geared toward (and be credible within) the law enforcement community, but it must have strengths that extend beyond that area. Oversight of the forensic science com- munity and medical examiner system will sweep broadly into areas of crimi- nal investigation and prosecution, civil litigation, legal reform, investigation of insurance claims, national disaster planning and preparedness, homeland security, certification of federal, state, and local forensic practitioners, public health, accreditation of public and private laboratories, research to improve forensic methodologies, education programs in colleges and universities, and advancing technology. The committee considered whether such a governing entity could be established within an existing federal agency. The National Science Founda- tion (NSF) was considered because of its strengths in leading research and its connections to the research and education communities. NSF is surely capable of building and sustaining a research base, but it has very thin ties to the forensic science community. It would be necessary for NSF to take many untested steps if it were to assume responsibility for the governance of applied fields of science. The committee also considered NIST. In the end analysis, however, NIST did not appear to be a viable option. It has a good program of research targeted at forensic science and law enforcement, but the program is modest. NIST also has strong ties to industry and academia, and it has an eminent history in standard setting and method development. But its ties to the forensic science community are still limited, and it would not be seen as a natural leader by the scholars, scientists, and practitioners in the field. In sum, the committee concluded that neither NSF nor NIST has
80 STRENGTHENING FORENSIC SCIENCE IN THE UNITED STATES the breadth of experience or institutional capacity to establish an effective governance structure for the forensic science enterprise. There was also a strong consensus in the committee that no existing or new division or unit within DOJ would be an appropriate location for a new entity governing the forensic science community. DOJâs principal mission is to enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law. Agencies within DOJ operate pursuant to this mission. The FBI, for example, is the investigative arm of DOJ and its principal mis- sions are to produce and use intelligence to protect the Nation from threats and to bring to justice those who violate the law. The work of these law enforcement units is critically important to the Nation, but the scope of the work done by DOJ units is much narrower than the promise of a strong forensic science community. Forensic science serves more than just law enforcement; and when it does serve law enforcement, it must be equally available to law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and defendants in the criminal justice system. The entity that is established to govern the forensic science community cannot be principally beholden to law enforcement. The potential for conflicts of interest between the needs of law enforce- ment and the broader needs of forensic science are too great. In addition, the committee determined that the research funding strategies of DOJ have not adequately served the broad needs of the forensic science community. This is understandable, but not acceptable when the issue is whether an agency is best suited to support and oversee the Nationâs forensic science community. In sum, the committee concluded that advancing science in the forensic science enterprise is not likely to be achieved within the confines of DOJ. Moreover, DHS is too focused on national security to embed a new entity within it. The committee thus concluded that no existing agency has the capacity or appropriate mission to take on the roles and responsibilities needed to govern and improve the forensic science community. The tasks assigned to it require that it be unfettered and objective and as free from bias as pos- sible. What is needed is a new, strong, and independent entity with no ties to the past and with the authority and resources to implement a fresh agenda designed to address the many problems found by the committee and dis- cussed in the remainder of this report. The proposed entity must meet the following minimum criteria: â¢ t must have a culture that is strongly rooted in science, with strong I ties to the national research and teaching communities, including federal laboratories. â¢ t must have strong ties to state and local forensic entities, as well I as to the professional organizations within the forensic science community.
THE NEED FOR INTEGRATED GOVERNANCE 81 â¢ t must not be in any way committed to the existing system, but I should be informed by its experiences. â¢ t must not be part of a law enforcement agency. I â¢ t must have the funding, independence, and sufficient prominence I to raise the profile of the forensic science disciplines and push ef- fectively for improvements. â¢ t must be led by persons who are skilled and experienced in de- I veloping and executing national strategies and plans for standard setting; managing accreditation and testing processes; and devel- oping and implementing rulemaking, oversight, and sanctioning processes. No federal agency currently exists that meets all of these criteria. Recommendation 1: To promote the development of forensic science into a mature field of multidisciplinary research and practice, founded on the systematic collection and analysis of relevant data, Congress should establish and appropriate funds for an independent federal entity, the National Institute of Forensic Science (NIFS). NIFS should have a full-time administrator and an advisory board with expertise in research and education, the forensic science disciplines, physical and life sciences, forensic pathology, engineering, information tech- nology, measurements and standards, testing and evaluation, law, national security, and public policy. NIFS should focus on: (a) establishing and enforcing best practices for forensic sci- ence professionals and laboratories; (b) establishing standards for the mandatory accreditation of forensic science laboratories and the mandatory certifica- tion of forensic scientists and medical examiners/forensic pathologistsâand identifying the entity/entities that will develop and implement accreditation and certification; (c) promoting scholarly, competitive peer-reviewed research and technical development in the forensic science disci- plines and forensic medicine; (d) developing a strategy to improve forensic science research and educational programs, including forensic pathology; (e) establishing a strategy, based on accurate data on the fo- rensic science community, for the efficient allocation of
82 STRENGTHENING FORENSIC SCIENCE IN THE UNITED STATES available funds to give strong support to forensic method- ologies and practices in addition to DNA analysis; (f) funding state and local forensic science agencies, inde- pendent research projects, and educational programs as recommended in this report, with conditions that aim to advance the credibility and reliability of the forensic sci- ence disciplines; (g) overseeing education standards and the accreditation of forensic science programs in colleges and universities; (h) developing programs to improve understanding of the fo- rensic science disciplines and their limitations within legal systems; and (i) assessing the development and introduction of new tech- nologies in forensic investigations, including a comparison of new technologies with former ones. The benefits that will flow from a strong, independent, strategic, coher- ent, and well-funded federal program to support and oversee the forensic science disciplines in this country are clear: The Nation will (1) bolster its ability to more accurately identify true perpetrators and exclude those who are falsely accused; (2) improve its ability to effectively respond to, attribute, and prosecute threats to homeland security; and (3) reduce the likelihood of convictions resting on inaccurate data. Moreover, establishing the scientific foundation of the forensic science disciplines, providing better education and training, and requiring certification and accreditation will position the forensic science community to take advantage of current and future scientific advances. The creation of a new federal entity undoubtedly will pose challenges, not the least of which will be budgetary constraints. The committee is not in a position to estimate how much it will cost to implement the recom- mendations in this report; this is a matter best left to the expertise of the Congressional Budget Office. What is clear, however, is that Congress must take aggressive action if the worst ills of the forensic science community are to be cured. Political and budgetary concerns should not deter bold, creative, and forward-looking action, because the country cannot afford to suffer the consequences of inaction. It will also take time and patience to implement the recommendations in this report. But this is true with any large, complex, important, and challenging enterprise. The committee strongly believes that the greatest hope for success in this enterprise will come with the creation of NIFS to oversee and direct the forensic science community. The remaining recommendations in this report are crucially tied to the creation of NIFS. However, each recom-
THE NEED FOR INTEGRATED GOVERNANCE 83 mendation is a separate, essential piece of the plan to improve the forensic science community in the United States. Therefore, even if the creation of NIFS is forestalled, the committee vigorously supports the adoption of the core ideas and principles embedded in the additional recommendations that appear in this report.