FBI Lab Accreditation by Presley (FSC, April 1999)
April 1999 - Volume 1 - Number 1
The FBI Laboratory and ASCLD/LAB Accreditation
Lawrence A. Presley
Quality Assurance Unit Chief
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The FBI Laboratory has historically focused on quality service. A primary goal of the FBI Laboratory is to maintain and expand its operation as a world-class quality scientific laboratory. A universally recognized confirmation of an established quality system is laboratory accreditation. In 1995, the FBI Laboratory Division (LD) management established a mandate to seek the American Society of Crime Laboratory Director’s Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) accreditation (click to see ASCLD/LAB accreditation brochure).
The Quality Assurance Unit of the LD was established in 1995 to help lead the efforts in obtaining and maintaining accreditation. During the next two years, LD personnel designed, standardized, and implemented laboratory-wide quality assurance policies and practices. The LD applied for accreditation in December 1997.
The FBI Laboratory Division underwent a comprehensive and thorough inspection by the ASCLD/LAB inspection team during May 26 to June 6, 1998. The ASCLD/LAB inspection team consisted of 28 individuals from forensic laboratories throughout the United States and Canada. The ASCLD/LAB inspectors were highly qualified forensic scientists and managers who represented the forensic disciplines of controlled substances, toxicology, trace evidence, serology, forensic DNA analysis, firearms/toolmarks, questioned documents, and latent fingerprints.
Three inspectors performed a follow-up visit in August 1998 to review additional documentation and to verify that their previous recommendations had been addressed by the LD.
In September 1998, ASCLD/LAB awarded accreditation to the FBI Laboratory. ASCLD/LAB accreditation represents an important and visible milestone in the FBI Laboratory’s commitment to quality services. ASCLD/LAB accreditation demonstrates the LD’s ongoing commitment to maintaining and enhancing a comprehensive quality system and to perpetuating continued nonpareil confidence in FBI Laboratory practices.
The essential criteria for maintaining ASCLD/LAB accreditation are becoming more rigorous and far-reaching and are moving toward alignment with international standards. The LD is continuing to expand quality assurance programs to achieve compliance with current and expected new requirements. The defensibility of scientific analyses in criminal cases is becoming more dependent on quality assurance documentation, and quality assurance practices are becoming critical to the successful and reliable use of scientific and technical analyses in criminal investigations.