Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the articles contained in the Academy News are those of the identified authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Academy.
The Forensic Science Education Programs Accreditation Commission (FEPAC ) came into being as a forensic science program accrediting body as the result of a National Institute of Justice (NIJ) -sponsored Technical Working Group on Education (TWGED). The focus was on criminalistics programs, those concerned primarily with training laboratory scientists in biology, chemistry, and trace- and pattern-evidence areas. FEPAC’s accreditation guidelines and its activities have been concerned with criminalistics programs since that time. Several years ago, a need for an accreditation in the digital evidence specialty was brought up, and FEPAC set up accreditation guidelines for it. Recently, FEPAC has undertaken to substantially revise its digital evidence accreditation standards and guidance. Furthermore, FEPAC has recently explored the possibility of expanding the scope of its accreditation activities into other forensic science and investigation specialties. Based on its assessment of potential interest, FEPAC may soon expand its activities into forensic investigation/death investigation programs. FEPAC does not plan to expand its activities to subdisciplines unless there is sufficient interest on the part of academic programs to make the effort cost effective.
This expansion of scope will require a new set of curricular and other standards for each new subdiscipline to be covered. That, in turn, will require the addition of members to the Commission with expertise in the areas covered by the expansion. These additional commissioners are likely to be drawn from the working subcommittee that designed the standards for the subdiscipline area.
As the scope of accreditation disciplines expands, so too will the number of commissioners. Allowing the commission to grow too large would be counterproductive. Thus, FEPAC will reorganize itself to accommodate the “subcommissions” by itself becoming smaller. The central FEPAC would, for the foreseeable future, not have fewer than six members. One member of the central FEPAC will be a non-voting member of any “subcommission” (which may be known as “working groups”).
It is anticipated that a group of two to four specialty subcommissioners (a Working Group) will handle the accreditation process for the given specialty in the same manner that FEPAC currently handles accreditation of criminalistics programs. In the end, it will make a recommendation to central FEPAC, which will then have final authority in the accreditation decision. If the expansion of activities to digital evidence and forensic investigation programs goes forward as planned, FEPAC may reorganize into a “parent” FEPAC. The Working Groups would handle accreditation matters for: (1) criminalistics (the traditional) programs; (2) digital evidence programs; and, (3) forensic investigation programs.
FEPAC now permits programs with multiple tracks or concentrations to explicitly exclude certain tracks from consideration in the accreditation process. For example, a program might have a biology track, a chemistry track, and a psychology track. Suppose that the psychology track does not meet all the curricular standards because it does not require sufficient traditional laboratory science; the program may now exclude that track when it applies for accreditation or re-accreditation. However, FEPAC plans to phase out this policy over the next five years, as it expands its activities to specialties other than criminalistics. Thus, it is anticipated that programs applying for accreditation around 2020 and later will not be able to have tracks that do not meet the standards. If the institution wants to have a program in that specialty (like psychology in the above example) and become FEPAC accredited, it would have to be housed under a separate, distinct degree from the FEPAC-accredited portions of the program.