In response to a congressional mandate for specified forensic science organizations to report on the needs of the crime lab and medical examiner community beyond the "DNA Initiative," this report by one of the specified organizations, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS), focuses on needs in the areas of firearms and toolmarks, forensic toxicology, and questioned document examination.
Because the pertinent legislation allowed a short time period for responses from the organizations, the AAFS only had time to send out e-mail questions to key members, soliciting their views on crime-lab and medical examiner needs in the areas of firearms and toolmarks, forensic toxicology, and questioned document examination. Practitioners in the areas of questioned documents and firearms responded in significant numbers, but only one response was received regarding toxicology. This report summarizes respondents' informed opinions in response to the questionnaire. Themes that emerged across the forensic areas addressed were the need for continuing education programs, budget restrictions that increase turnaround times, assistance in dealing with Daubert related challenges regarding the reliability of certain types of forensic casework, and the standardization of training and practice. Other issues mentioned were the need for Federal forensic labs to monitor the performance of State and local labs and provide them technical assistance. Given the priority that has been given to the processing and analysis of DNA evidence, the respondents recommend that greater attention be given to other forensic science domains in order to increase the amount of evidence that can be used at trial. Respondents also expressed concern about the ability of State and local crime labs to deal with evidence related to potential terrorist weaponry, notably weapons of mass destruction. Appended questionnaire
Date Published: January 1, 2006