April Theme: Forensic Science II

The month of April marks one year since the dissolution of the National Commission on Forensic Science. As part of CaSP’s continuing focus on forensic science policy for the month of April, we include here a summary of the final report issued by the commission, entitled, “Reflecting Back— Looking Toward the Future.” The complete document can be found here. The report summarizes the accomplishments of the commission. This includes 20 Recommendation documents (documents with specific proposals for the attorney general for implementation) and 23 Views documents (documents stating the opinions of the commission on a particular subject). Each document fell into one of three categories: Foundational, Operational, and Relational.

The Foundational category sought to establish standards for the discipline of forensic science. One of the recommendations in this category was to develop a grant to fund postdoctoral researchers in the area of forensic science. The Operational category outlines the technical aspects of running a forensic lab. The recommendations under this category include accreditation of labs, proficiency tests and certification of practitioners, as well as developing a code of professional responsibility. The final category, Relational, pertains to the connection between forensic data and users of the data such as attorneys, judges, investigators, etc. The commission proposed development of a curriculum to properly train lawyers and judges in forensic science, as well as recommending the forensic science community to standardize field terminology.

Many of the recommendations made by the commission over the years did not come to fruition. Former commissioners expressed their desire to see change in the efficacy of our legal system, and it is now the  voters’ responsibility to advocate for these changes. We must call on our elected officials to ensure fairness in our criminal justice system.