Presentations from the International Symposium on Setting Quality Standards for the Forensic Community (Part 5; Forensic Science Communications, July 1999)
Presentations at the
Immediate reaction: inadequate
resolution, finger pointing;
Teams assigned to attack big problems: no long-range solutions.
Corrective action established:
problems generally resolved;
Problems identified early: all functions open to improvement.
|Except in usual cases, problems are prevented.|
Legal Influences in Forensic
The problem-solving driving force in the forensic sciences is primarily the law. Historically, one of the best known legal decisions affecting forensic science is the Frye Rule. Basically, the Frye Rule states that " the thing from which the deduction is made must be sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs."
More recently, the Daubert Rule is becoming the standard for admissibility of scientific or technical testimony. The Daubert Rule attempts to answer the following questions:
- Does the theory or technique
involve testable hypotheses?
- Has the theory or technique
been subject to peer review and publication?
- Are there known or potential
error rates and are there standards controlling the technique's
- Is the method or technique generally accepted in the scientific community?
The Federal Rules of Evidence, which have parallel rules in states, also address forensic expert testimony. The Federal Rules of Evidence include the following relevant statements:
- Rule 104: Questions of admissibility generally.
Qualification of the person to be a witness, or admissibility
of evidence. Relevance conditioned on fact.
- Rule 403: Relevant evidence may be excluded
if probative value is substantially outweighed by danger of unfair
prejudice, confusion, misleading the jury, or needless presentation
of cumulative evidence.
- Rule 702: If scientific, technical, or other
specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact, a witness
who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience,
training, or education may testify.
- Rule 703: The facts or data in a particular case upon which an expert bases an opinion may be those perceived by or made known to the expert at, or before, the hearing. If reasonably relied upon, the facts or data need not be admissible in evidence.
These legal elements help to create and define the objectives that are strived for in forensic analyses.
Forensic Science Quality Objectives
The forensic science quality objectives apply to two major areas of forensic examinations: methods' validation and casework. The following lists the necessitating legal elements of forensic analysis:
- Methods Validation
- Sufficiently established
- Generally accepted
- Established error rate
- Casework Specific
- Peer reviewed
- Controlling standards used
- Unbiased, clear, clarifying, needed
- Reasonably relied upon
These legal elements are relied upon by the judge in the admissibility of evidence and testimony in criminal case. The quality of the forensic analyses must meet or exceed these legal criteria.
Forensic Science Quantity Objectives
The quantity objectives of forensic analyses should work concurrently with the quality objectives of forensic analyses to produce high-quality results in reasonable time periods. Case productivity is usually measured by turn-around time and, to a lesser extent, by court testimonies. Ideally, quality and quantity should complement each other. Initially, quality will negatively affect quantity. However, over the long term, quality should enhance and support quantity objectives (see Figure 1).
There are three generally accepted problem-solving and quality-improvement tools: audits, corrective actions, and preventive action.
Audits are planned, independent, and documented assessments to determine whether agreed upon requirements are being met.
Corrective actions are actions designed to thoroughly address a problematic issue. Corrective actions can be applied to immediate situations, the elimination of a situation, or the process to plan assistance to customers who have a specific kind of unsatisfactory service potential. Corrective action may be used in any of the following situations:
- Detecting the lack of training
to retrain and restart the process;
- Using autopsies to determine
with precision the symptoms exhibited by the product and process;
- Comparing before and after
- Establishing the relationship
between the process variables and product results;
- Reconstructing the chronology:
- Events before and after; and
- Time-related information (for example, waiting times).
Corrective action may also invoke the following remedies:
- Reevaluating standards/criteria;
- Instituting form changes;
- Changing the quality system
operations as necessary;
- Allocating resources to
- Improving physical and professional
- Training and retraining
- Coaching and counseling
- Using newsletters to inform
- Allocating workloads based
on staff and resources; and
- Terminating ineffective resource allocations.
Preventive action is a pro-active process used to identify improvement opportunities, rather than a reaction to the identification of problems or complaints. It may involve review of operational procedures, analysis of data including trend analysis, analysis of proficiency-testing results, and risk analysis.
We are all responsible for the ongoing improvement of the forensic science services we deliver. We need to employ the proper problem-solving and change tools to create the right systems and environment for high-quality forensic practices. Our objective is to ensure that forensic analyses can be reliably used by the criminal justice system and that justice is served.
Arter, D. R. Quality Audits for Improved Performance (2nd ed.). ASQC Quality Press, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1994.
Crosby, P. B. Quality Is Still Free. McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1996.
ISO/IEC Guide 25-1990. General Requirements for the Competence of Testing and Calibration Laboratories.
Juran, J. M. and Gryna, F. M. Juran's Quality Control Handbook (4th ed.). McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1988.
There is no doubt that initial education and ongoing training of personnel plays a critical role in the overall quality management program of an organization. There are a number of tools that can be used to identify training requirements. These include skills audits, training needs analyses, proficiency tests, and outcomes of the emerging scientific working groups.
There needs to be a balance in training between externally delivered and externally assessed programs and the more practically oriented in-house programs. Appropriate assessment is vital for the credibility of training outcomes.
Competency-based training is designed to provide the appropriate skills for an individual's current working environment and activities.
Current technology such as interactive CD-ROMs and the Internet allows for tailoring of training programs and gives the purchaser a range of options to meet individual requirements.
Therefore, there can be complementarity between training and quality management demands.
Europe and the European Union
Dramatic changes have occurred in Europe during the past 12 years. The Maastricht Treaty paved the way for greater police and judicial cooperation between member states of the European Union; the Schengen Convention heralded the removal of border controls and greater freedom of movement on mainland Europe; and, perhaps most important of all, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism opened up Eastern Europe with new states forming from the old Soviet Union to the west.
With these changes, the European Union has experienced increased organized crime spreading from Eastern Europe. The greater freedom of movement has opened up new routes for criminals and criminal organizations trafficking in a variety of goods including drugs, firearms, plutonium, and people. Clearly, this has had consequences for the investigation of organized crime and serious cross-border crime.
On 1 October 1988, Europol was established as an European Union-wide organization responsible for facilitating cooperation between police forces of member states. The European Union also began to take a more active role in encouraging interagency cooperation and police and judicial cooperation between member states. The European Union saw its priority as the effective tackling of serious crime, drugs, and illegal immigration, and it placed particular emphasis on practical cooperation between the agencies supporting the police, customs, other law enforcement agencies, and the judiciary.
European Network of Forensic Science Institutes (ENFSI)
In the forensic science field, regular cooperation has existed at the technical level since the mid-1980s.
In Spring 1992, the Gerechtelijk Laboratory in the Netherlands launched the idea of organizing regular meetings for directors from the main public service/government forensic science laboratories in Western Europe. The following year a meeting was held in the Netherlands to discuss the formation of a European Network of Forensic Science Institutes, and between March 1993 and October 1995, six meetings were held. The topics discussed included accreditation of forensic science laboratories, quality management, forensic education, automation of crime laboratories, and international cooperation. ENFSI was formally founded in October 1995.
ENFSI has since developed into an organization with 39 members from 25 countries within Europe, including 13 of the 15 European Union member states:
United Kingdom (4)
The majority of the members are directors of institutes that are the major providers in their country of forensic science services in support of crime investigation by the police and other law enforcement agencies and the prosecution of offenders.
The aim of ENFSI is to promote cooperation between its members and their laboratory staff through discussion of managerial issues, the effective use of forensic science, scientific developments, and standards of practise. This involves participation in scientific exchange programs, joint research and development, and sharing of information and expertise on best practise, quality assurance matters, and training. It also requires cooperation with other international organizations.
The strategic direction of ENFSI is managed through its board and an annual meeting of its members. For the period 19972002, it identified four major priorities:
- Strengthen and consolidate
ENFSI as an organization through the work of the board, working
groups, committees, and meetings,
- Position ENFSI as a source
of advice to international organizations such as the European
Union and Interpol,
- Expand its membership throughout
Europe while maintaining its development and credibility, and
- Establish a working relationship with other similar organizations.
Significant progress toward accomplishing these priorities has since been made. ENFSI has been adopted by the European Union Police Cooperation Working Group as its adviser on forensic science issues. ENFSI's members are also looking forward to establishing a memorandum of understanding with Europol. Membership applications continue to flow in. Since May 1997, a number of successful summit meetings have been held with the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD) and Senior Managers of Australia and New Zealand Forensic Science Laboratories representatives.
ENFSI Working Groups and Committees
However, ENFSI has been most keen to address the practical and technical aspects of forensic science from an international perspective and to raise the standards of performance of all its member laboratories. The main thrust of this work has been through the activities of its working groups and committees.
Some of these predate ENFSI under different organizational arrangements and some are new, but now all are under the same umbrella and cover most of the main areas of forensic science activity:
- Computer Crime
- Document Examination
- Drugs Benchmarking
- Education and Training
- Fire and Physical or Gas Explosions
- Forensic Imaging
- Quality Assurance
- Scenes of Crime
- Speech and Audio Analysis
European Academy of Forensic Science
The working groups are open to all ENFSI members active in their area of interest, but scientists and academics from within and outside Europe can also be invited to join as guests. Their terms of reference require them to focus on the exchange of information or expertise promoting quality assurance, joint research and development, provision of education and training within their specific area, and establishing international access to their data collections.
The DNA Working Group has probably been the most active of late. For example, it has provided advice to the European Union Police Cooperation Working Group on the exchange of information relating to DNA profiles, and this has led to funding being provided from the European Union and to the group almost exclusive focus on this issue. It has carried out collaborative studies on DNA profiling and has already reached agreement to standardize throughout Europe on seven STR loci for European DNA databasing, not for a European DNA Database, but for national databases that contain compatible and thus interchangeable DNA profiles. It has developed quality assurance guidelines for DNA profiling. The chairman of the DNA Working Group, together with a number of other working group members, has recently been conducting an audit of a number of other European laboratories to check the extent to which they can comply with these requirements and where they need more assistance to reach the necessary standard.
The ENFSI Drugs Working Group has also been approached by the European Union Police Cooperation Working Group for advice on the establishment of an intelligence database covering synthetic drugs such as LSD, amphetamines, and the other amphetamine-type ecstasy stimulants. A member of Europol now attends all the Drugs Working Group meetings.
These are the types of things all the working groups are aiming for, addressing how forensic science can transcend the international cultural, legal, and language difficulties that we have in Europe.
But we do not want to do this just in Europe, in isolation from the rest of the world community. In DNA there is already good contact with the United States. We have unashamedly built on the very good work done by TWGDAM in taking our work forward, and the Chairman of the ENFSI DNA Working Group is on the New York State DNA Board. The Chairman of the ENFSI Fibres Working Group is a member of SWGMAT, and the Chairman of SWGMAT participates in meetings of the ENFSI Fibres Working Group. The Chairman of the ENFSI Quality Assurance Working Group and a member of the ENFSI Drugs Working Group have been working closely with TWGDRUG, and some of the other working groups have also established connections with interested parties elsewhere in America, Australia, and Asia. We would like to see much more interchange of experiences and scholarship along similar lines and would welcome further contact between the corresponding groups.
The European Academy of Forensic Science is a rather different animal from the other working groups and is tasked primarily with organizing open scientific meetings for ENFSI that are aimed at improving the interface between practising forensic scientists, academics, and the legal process. They take place usually every three years, and the next meeting is in Cracow, in September 2000. We look forward to seeing as many of you there as possible to help build on the excellent foundation of cooperation and understanding we have now established.
FORENSIC SCIENCE COMMUNICATIONS JULY 1999 VOLUME 1 NUMBER 2