Moving forward with standardization

A colleague recently asked or my assessment on the current state of the field of crime scene investigation and forensic science. The first thing that came to mind was a recurring theme in press releases and story ideas coming across my desk: The concept of refining forensic science at the crime scene.

Miniaturization of components is allowing manufacturers to create compact, field-deployable instruments that enable more screening of evidence at the crime scene. An example of that can be found in a DNA-evidence triaging system that helps crime scene investigators determine whether a sample contains human DNA, how much of it, and whether the donor is male or female. Handheld spectrometers are another example of devices that can help personnel identify evidence to collect at the scene.

Along with the effort to improve the relevancy of evidence collected in the field comes an initiative to ensure standardization and quality control through certification and accreditation of crime scene personnel and crime scene units.

Meanwhile, at the federal level, work continues on the creation of national forensic science standards. In September, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) issued a Notice of Inquiry in the Federal Register requesting “input on the structure of guidance groups that would promote scientific validity and reliability in forensic science.” The guidance groups are intended to replace the ad hoc system of scientific working groups (SWGs) that vary greatly in funding, structure, size, and output.

“We envision the guidance group as being voluntary collaborative organizations of forensic science practitioners and researchers from a wide array of disciplines. Members would represent all levels of government, academia, non-profits, and industry,” said Susan Ballou, NIST program manager for forensic science in a NIST press release.

As we move into 2014, Evidence Technology Magazine will be keeping a close eye on all of these developments. With new technologies and processes available in the field, how will crime scene management change? Where are the new Guidance Groups and the National Commission on Forensic Science headed? We will be here to answer those questions and to bring you the latest news from the field.

See you in 2014.

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Evidence Technology Magazine

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Court Case Update

FINGERPRINT EVIDENCE went through a nearly three-year ordeal in the New Hampshire court system, but eventually emerged unscathed. On April 4, 2008, the New Hampshire Supreme Court unanimously reversed the decision of a lower court to exclude expert testimony regarding fingerprint evidence in the case of The State of New Hampshire v. Richard Langill. The case has been remanded back to the Rockingham County Superior Court.