Forensic Science Group Calls for More Funding & Support

The American Congress of Forensic Science Laboratories (ACFSL), a multidisiplinary assembly of professionals employed in United States forensic science laboratories, recently published a position statement, "How Can America Fix Its Crime Labs?"

In the report, posted online July 18, 2016, the ACFSL pointed to another commentary by the same name, published in Pacific Standard Magazine on May 6, 2016, where author Kate Wheeling wrote that "the lack of oversight in crime labs, and the pressure to do more with less creates an environment that allows misconduct ... to go unnoticed."

The ACFSL observed:

Wheeling discusses potential remedies that might or might not succeed in preventing crime lab scandals, and she takes aim at laboratories that receive funds having the conviction of a defendant as a condition: “Such policies can incentivize convictions for lab technicians, without any regard for whether they’re convicting the right person — an imbalance that could lead to false convictions.”

In reality, forensic laboratory scientists do not have a vested interest in who is being convicted and who is not. The assertion that convictions are an incentive for laboratories is without merit and not based on evidence. The priority of forensic laboratory scientists is to ensure that their work is accurate and that their results are clearly understood. This principle is deeply embedded in forensic science culture, literature, training, and practices. Yet as our criminal justice system’s reliance on forensic science has increased remarkably over many years, it has never been met with commensurate funding or support despite the best efforts of many forensic science organizations over many years.

The position statement goes on to explain that non-DNA sciences "have been sidelined in their efforts to secure federal support." The ACFSL points to the Paul Coverdell Forensic Sciences Improvement Grant as the funding source that is intended in the United States to support the non-DNA forensic disciplines, but that "the Coverdell program is rarely a serious federal priority until the crime laboratory community rallies for the minuscule funding that is finally allocated."

The ACFSL makes a call to the executive and legislative branches to work to create new sources of funding: "Coverdell's full authorized amount of $25 million must, in our opinion, be appropriated, but even that is not enough. For this reason, we call for additional funding for other non-DNA sciences through mechanisms that are similar to the DNA grant funding programs already in place. The vast majority of forensic evidence tested by crime laboratories is not DNA, and this truth must be reflected in the federal funding of crime laboratories in the United States."

You can read the full position statement here.


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