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Standards and Guidelines - Forensic Science Communications - January 2005

Standards and Guidelines - Forensic Science Communications - January 2005

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January 2005 - Volume 7 - Number 1

Standards and Guidelines

Code of Professional Practice for Drug Analysts


Scientific Working Group for the Analysis of Seized Drugs (SWGDRUG)

October 2003


Preface
| Introduction | Code of Professional Practice | Appendix

Preface

The Code of Professional Practice for Drug Analysts was written specifically for analysts. However, it is important that managers, technicians, and others who assist the analysts in their work are equally aware of the code's provisions, and that they support the analyst in adhering to the code. When appropriate, the provisions are also equally applicable to the technicians' work.

1. Introduction

1.1.
A code of professional practice is intended to provide the framework of ethical values and scientific and legal obligations within which the analyst should operate. Details are usually provided on how alleged breaches of the code will be investigated, what sanctions are available, and how appeals should be pursued.
1.2.
A code of professional practice is essential to analysts and their managers in helping them carry out their duties in a proper manner and in making appropriate decisions when questions of ethics arise.
1.3.
A code of professional practice that is enforced and publicly available is also a powerful means of demonstrating the professional expectations of analysts and the reliability of their findings to others in the criminal justice system and the public.
1.4.
The Scientific Working Group for the Analysis of Seized Drugs recommends that all employers of analysts develop a code of professional practice and the means of dealing with breaches of the code.
1.5.
1.5. The Scientific Working Group for the Analysis of Seized Drugs further recommends that all codes of professional practice for analysts should include, as a minimum, provisions relating to their professional conduct, casework, and reporting results, as provided in Section 2.

2. Code of Professional Practice

2.1.
Professional Conduct
Analysts should
2.1.1.
Act with honesty, integrity, and objectivity.
2.1.2.
Work only in the bounds of their professional competence.
2.1.3.
Take reasonable steps to maintain their competence.
2.1.4.
Recognize that their overriding duty is to criminal justice.
2.1.5.
Declare to their employer any prior contact or personal involvement, which may give rise to conflict of interest, real or perceived.
2.1.6.
Declare to their employer or other appropriate authority any pressure intended to influence the result of an examination.
2.2. Casework
Analysts should
2.2.1.
Ensure and be able to demonstrate that the integrity and security of evidentiary materials and the information derived from their analysis have been maintained while in their possession.
2.2.2.
Ensure that they have a clear understanding of what the customer needs and all the necessary information, relevant evidentiary materials, and facilities available to reach a meaningful conclusion in an appropriate time frame.
2.2.3.
Employ an appropriate analytical approach, using the facilities available.
2.2.4.
Make and retain full, contemporaneous, clear, and accurate records of all examinations and tests conducted and conclusions drawn, in sufficient detail to allow meaningful review and assessment of the conclusions by an independent person competent in the field.
2.2.5.
Accept responsibility for all casework that is done personally and by others under their direction.
2.2.6.
Conduct all professional activities in a way that protects the health and safety of themselves, their coworkers, the public, and the environment.
2.3.
Reporting
Analysts should
2.3.1.
Present advice and testimony, whether written or oral, in a clear and objective manner.
2.3.2.
Be prepared to reconsider and, if necessary, change their conclusions, advice, or testimony in light of new information or developments and take the initiative in informing their employer and customers promptly of any changes that need to be made.
2.3.3.
Take appropriate action if there is potential for or there has been a miscarriage of justice due to new circumstances that have come to light, incompetent practice, or malpractice.
2.3.4.
Preserve customer confidentiality unless officially authorized to do otherwise.

Appendix

This appendix gives examples to demonstrate the scope of the various provisions of the code.

2.2.
Casework
2.2.1.

To ensure and be able to demonstrate that the integrity and security of evidentiary materials and the information derived from their analysis have been maintained while in their possession by the following:

  • Keeping a chain-of-custody record.
  • Making special note of sealing and packaging security of received evidentiary materials.
  • Preserving evidentiary materials from contamination, adulteration, deterioration, loss, or theft by using appropriate working practices and suitable, controlled-access storage facilities.
  • Using a unique identifier for evidentiary materials, any subsample taken from them, and any accompanying documentation that will minimize the risk of misidentification.
  • Keeping evidentiary materials in their original condition for future reference, when possible.
  • Securely repackaging and resealing evidentiary materials after their examination.
  • Preserving and returning all original packaging, with original seals intact, when possible.
  • Ensuring that access to evidentiary materials and all documentation relating to these, before and after their examination, is restricted to authorized personnel.
2.2.2.

To ensure that they have a clear understanding of what the customer needs and all the necessary information, relevant evidentiary materials, and facilities available to reach a meaningful conclusion in an appropriate time frame by the following:

  • Conferring with the customer, if there is any uncertainty over their requirement.

  • Establishing what work needs to be done to provide a fit-for-purpose response to the customer's requirement.

  • Ensuring that all the requisite information and evidentiary materials have been submitted.

  • Checking that all the necessary accommodation, equipment, materials, and skills will be available when required.

  • Declining to do the testing if the customer's requirement cannot be met.
2.2.3.

To employ an appropriate analytical approach, using the facilities available by the following:

  • Adhering to the Scientific Working Group for the Analysis of Seized Drugs recommendations.

  • Performing only those analyses that are needed to meet the specified customer requirement.

  • Making best use of the available resources in meeting the customer's requirement.

  • Ensuring that the identification and quantification of any drug reflects what was present in the material submitted.
2.2.4.

To make and retain full, contemporaneous, clear, and accurate records of all examinations and tests conducted and conclusions drawn, in sufficient detail to allow meaningful review and assessment of the conclusions by an independent person competent in the field by the following:

  • Writing legibly.

  • Avoiding use of personal shorthand.

  • Recording all pertinent information at the time it is generated, or as soon as practicable thereafter.

  • Ensuring that there can be no uncertainty about what work has been carried out, how, when, where, and by whom.

  • Complying with local jurisdictional requirements.

  • Consistently maintaining well-ordered case files and ensuring that these are available for review.
2.2.5.

To accept responsibility for all casework done personally and by others under their direction by the following:

  • Providing suggestions for improvement.

  • Ensuring that all work done personally and by others under their direction is in compliance with the laboratory's procedures and protocols.

  • Providing clear, documented instructions to others under their directon that might subsequently be used to support any advice or evidence they give.

  • Defending and justifying all work that is done personally and by others under their direction.
2.2.6.

To conduct all professional activities in a way that protects the health and safety of themselves, their coworkers, the public, and the environment by the following:

  • Being aware of and complying at all times with current health and safety legislation.

  • Ensuring that all relevant risk assessments have been done and safe systems of work are in place and being followed.

  • Ensuring that others in the vicinity of their work are aware of their activities, particularly when these involve the investigation of clandestine laboratories, potential exposure to controlled drugs (especially from bulk seizures), the use of other hazardous materials, or the destruction and/or disposal of drugs and other hazardous materials.
2.3.
Reporting
2.3.1.

To present their advice and testimony, whether
written or oral, in a clear and objective manner by the following:

  • Adhering to the Scientific Working Group for the Analysis of Seized Drugs recommendations.

  • Using lay terms, when possible.

  • Explaining technical terms so that they can be properly understood.

  • Including only facts and objective interpretations in their advice or evidence that can be justified by the work done and the information available.

  • Considering and providing alternative explanations or interpretations for their findings, when appropriate.

  • Making clear the strengths and any limitations in their advice or evidence.

  • Declaring anything that might undermine the integrity of their evidence or its use (e.g., unsecured packaging, possible contamination).
2.3.2.

To be prepared to reconsider and, if necessary, change their conclusions, advice, or testimony in light of new information or developments and take the initiative in informing their employer and customers promptly of any changes that need to be made by the following:

  • Accepting on-going responsibility for any advice or evidence provided.

  • Immediately informing their employer about anything that they have become aware of that might cause them to question the validity of any advice given or evidence provided.

  • Informing the appropriate external authorities (e.g., police, prosecutor) of their concerns.

  • Recording in the case file all new information, an assessment of its implications, and the actions taken.
2.3.3.

To take appropriate action if there is potential for, or there has been, a miscarriage of justice due to new circumstances that have come to light, incompetent practice, or malpractice by the following:

  • Informing their employer about new circumstances.

  • Informing their employer about relevant concerns they have about the quality of their own work or that of others working under their direction.

  • Informing their employer about relevant concerns they may have about the work, advice, or evidence provided by others.

  • Informing their employer about relevant concerns that others may have made (e.g., customer complaints, criticisms in court).

  • Ensuring that the information is brought to the attention of the appropriate external authority.
2.3.4.
To preserve customer confidentiality by not disclosing information about a case unless officially and explicitly authorized to do so by the customer, a court, or other body with the relevant statutory powers, required by the law to disclose specified information to a designated person, or an overriding duty to the court and justice system for such disclosure is recognized.