exclusive focus on Strengthening Forensic Science
Crime laboratory analysts are presented in court as neutral scientists, though experience has shown that is not always true. Their job performance should be evaluated based on their accuracy and consistent fidelity to scientific testing principles and protocols, and measures should be taken to ensure neutrality and fidelity to objective scientific principles. Yet studies have shown that some crime laboratories are beholden for funding from law enforcement sources that may demand analysts produce results to help secure convictions. Even subtle pressures may affect the objectivity of analysts when they are supervised by members of the police, the district attorney’s office, or the attorney general’s office. Indeed, studies reveal that merely being organizationally aligned with a party creates unintentional cognitive biases that lead experts to skew their analyses and opinions in ways that favor the perceived interests of their organizational partners.
To avoid these influences and pressures, crime labs and medical examiners should not be organized under the bureaucracy of law enforcement or prosecution agencies. Even if they are funded through public sources they need to be independent of the prosecution to ensure that their analysts can provide objective tests and testimony in a criminal case. It was for this reason that the National Academy of Sciences, in its pathbreaking report on forensic science in the United States in 2009, recommended “removing all public forensic laboratories and facilities from the administrative control of law enforcement agencies or prosecutors’ offices.”
CIFS hopes to strengthen the reliability of forensic science in criminal cases by promoting crime laboratory independence from law enforcement funding streams and oversight. CIFS will work to educate the public about the need for independent crime laboratories and other forensic science professionals in order to restore faith that justice can be obtained in our courtrooms.