Thursday, January 17, 2013

Accrediting Crime Labs

I was just reading an article that complains about the lax standards at crime labs, noting
there aren’t any national standards for crime labs, which means quality control can vary. Accreditation is voluntary, and many states do not require it; each jurisdiction decides how to certify and administer its labs and vet its technicians. 
The one body that as tried to establish serious standards for crime labs is the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB), which says its mission is to improve the quality of forensic services.
When a lab’s accreditation application is accepted, ASCLD/LAB sends a team to visit that lab, a process that takes the better part of a week. “We review the work of all the analysts to make sure the work is done within the procedures of that lab. We make sure all the personnel had completed their training, that they are regularly proficiency tested,” says Keaton. “We try not to leave any stone unturned.”
But note that they don't do the one thing that might really determine if the lab's work is any good: double blind tests. Once you know that, you can well believe that
In fact ASCLD/LAB could more properly be described as a product service organization which sells, for a fee, a “seal of approval.”
Every time I think about this charade I get angry. We send men to prison on the basis of "science" that has nothing to do with what science really is, another sign that our "justice" system is directed toward a wide variety of ends other than justice.

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