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Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward
In keeping with the stated objective of ‘identifying those laboratories which meet established standards,’ the ASCLD/LAB Board has determined that, as an accrediting body, we must be timelier in reviewing instances of significant non-compliance. To further this objective, all accredited laboratories must disclose to ASCLD/LAB all substantive occurrences of non-compliance within 30 calendar days of determining that the noncompliance has occurred.15
In addition to this particular requirement, the ISO program has a requirement for an annual surveillance visit. During this site visit, any issues that may have come to the attention of ASCLD/LAB and/or requirements selected by ASCLD/LAB are reviewed. The accreditation programs are managed by a paid staff member working under the direction of a board of directors, which is elected by the Delegate Assembly. The Delegate Assembly is composed of the directors of all accredited laboratories and laboratory systems. Inspectors must complete a training program and must be employed in an accredited laboratory. At any time, if an issue is brought to the attention of ASCLD/LAB, the board of directors can, after determining that the claim is substantive, implement an interim inspection of that particular issue and the entire laboratory. The program also includes a system of sanctions and an appeal process.
Status of Accreditation
ASCLD/LAB’s international program has accredited 60 laboratories as of April 2008, in addition to 337 laboratories accredited under the original Legacy program.16 FQS-International (FQS-I) has accredited just over 50 laboratories in one or more disciplines; however, FQS-I allows forensic laboratories to customize their accreditation by phasing in one discipline at a time.17 A survey of International Association for Identification (IAI) members, who tend to work in settings other than traditional crime laboratories, revealed that only 15 percent of respondents are accredited.18
Only a few jurisdictions require that their forensics laboratories be accredited. According to the 2005 census of 351 publicly funded crime laboratories, more than three-quarters of laboratories (78 percent) were
2008 version of the ASCLD/LAB Legacy Accreditation Manual.