A congressionally mandated report by the National Research Council concludes that our nation’s crime labs are understaffed, underfunded and lack proper oversight.
The report concludes that aside from DNA analysis, no forensic method has been demonstrated to be consistently reliable and accurate as a tool linking crime scene evidence to specific suspects.
In fact outside of forensic DNA analyses, there are remarkably few peer-reviewed studies in the literature that even bother to validate the basic premises underlying forensic procedures, according to BurrillReport.
“Reliable forensic evidence increases the ability of law enforcement officials to identify those who commit crimes, and it protects innocent people from being convicted of crimes they didn’t commit,” co-author Harry Edwards told Burrill.
The senior circuit judge and chief judge emeritus of the US Court of Appeals added that “judicial review alone will not cure the infirmities of the forensic science community.”
The NRC report recommends establishing a National Institute of Forensic Science to spearhead necessary research, set standards for forensic experts and labs, and oversee educational initiatives.
It also suggests that forensic lab governance should be separate from prosecutor’s offices and police departments. This would improve budgeting processes and eliminate cultural issues arising from the sometimes conflicting missions of these organizations.
And it favors mandatory certification for forensic science experts, which would involve written exams, internship-like programs, proficiency testing, and development of a code of conduct.
Forensic labs themselves should have to be accredited, and be required to establish quality-control procedures and assure adherence to best practice guidelines, the report recommended.