The “new” forensic laboratory

It's not alwasy easy converting something old into something new. Whenever you try, there’s the inevitable resistance to change, growing pains, and puzzle pieces that don’t seem to want to fit into place.

But when “new” is necessary, and the right people go to work on the solution, the results can be positive and far-reaching.

Today in the forensic science community, a lot of change is underway as agencies and decision makers work toward ensuring the standardized, quality-controlled, and unbiased approach called for by the National Academy of Science’s 2009 report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward.

One example is described by Dr. Max M. Houck on Page 6 of this issue in the article, “What does independence mean for a forensic laboratory?” Houck, who is the director of the Department of Forensic Sciences at the District of Columbia Consolidated Forensic Laboratories in Washington, D.C., uses his own department’s structure and experiences to explain what it looks like when you establish a forensic laboratory that is independent from a policing agency. While some may argue that this kind of change is not necessary—or, at least, that it does not solve issues of bias or outright dishonesty—it is nonetheless change that is happening across the country and is worthy of note.

In another example, the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences Forensic Genetics Laboratory in Houston, Texas opened in November 2012 in a repurposed space. The article on Page 14 of this issue describes how designers and laboratory administration worked together to build a new space in an old building, merging existing architecture and scientific procedures with new spaces that offer improved workflow, better collaboration, and ensured quality control.

The converted space in Harris County and the new way of doing laboratory business in Washington, D.C. are representative of the changes taking place across the country in forensic science. The changes aren’t always easy and the transitions are not always smooth, but continued steps toward a common goal — to strengthen forensic science — are certainly worth the effort.

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Evidence Technology Magazine

 
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