Policy Page – September 2015


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.

LEGISLATION:

Source: Victor W. Weedn, MD, JD, AAFS 2015-16 President

There has not been much on the Federal legislative front that is visible, but the Consortium of Forensic Science Organizations (CFSO) has been very active. The current makeup of the CFSO is: Matthew Gamette (ASCLD, Chair), Kim Collins (NAME, Vice Chair), Ken Martin (IAI, Treasurer), Marie Marino (IAFN, Secretary), Victor Weedn (AAFS), Tim Rohrig (SOFT), Yale Caplan (ABFT), and Beth Lavach (advocate). The CFSO sent a letter to the Attorney General suggesting input from the forensics community in their hair analysis and other forensic science reviews. The CFSO helped coordinate the announcement of the FBI DNA allele population frequency correction. The CFSO has provided some input into the legislative language for a new Cornyn/Leahy bill. One issue that has surfaced is the duplication of the NIST OSAC Forensic Science Standards Board (FSSB) and the proposed DOJ Office of Forensic Sciences’ (OFS) Forensic Sciences Board (FSB). We believe the NIST FSSB model is effective and are asking Congress to evaluate that model for use as the OFS FSB. The CFSO has suggested that an effort in the Senate Commerce Committee should focus on forensic science research. The CFSO participated in hearings on sexual assault kits and on rapid DNA. The CFSO supports funding of sexual assault testing but opposes tracking through all stages of processing; the CFSO supports VAWA reauthorization and funding. The CFSO is opposed to HR 320 in its current form, but supports legislation that would enable DNA testing at booking stations as an investigatory effort. The CFSO supports reauthorization and full funding of the Justice-for-All Act, which includes the Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Act grant funding program. Recently, a SAFE Act has been introduced that includes sections that affect the forensic community, particularly regarding DNA testing and evidence collection, which we are studying and monitoring.

The CFSO recently conducted a survey of its members with the following ranking of priorities: (1) forensic science reform/advancement legislation; (2) accreditation funding; (3) certification funding; (4) grant reform/Coverdell; (5) rapid DNA legislation; and, (6) rape kit backlog.

NCFS COMMITTEE REPORT:

Source: Dean M. Gialamas, MS, AAFS NCFS Committee Chair

The National Commission on Forensic Science (NCFS) will have held its seventh meeting on August 10-11, in Washington, DC. At press time (August 1), the meeting was still pending, so the information in this article may have some additional updates by the time you are reading this article. Some highlights expected at the next meeting include:

Commission Business: The NCFS will be proposing the creation of new subcommittee called the Subcommittee on Procedures and Operations (SPO). The SPO will be a standing Subcommittee of the Commission comprised of a total of eight members: four Commissioners selected by the Commission reflecting a balance of professional experiences and perspectives, as well as the Vice-Chairs, the Designated Federal Official, and a representative of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The SPO will provide support and counsel to the Co-Chairs/Vice-Chairs on administrative and procedural matters raised by Commissioners or Commission Officials, including but not limited to: (1) the preparation of Commission meeting agendas and topics; (2) the drafting or revision of guidance documents designed to assist Commissioners in the performance of their duties; (3) the establishment, dissolution, and scope of other Subcommittees; and, (4) any revisions of the Commission bylaws. The members of the SPO will serve as liaisons to the Commissioners and the Commissioners may request guidance from the SPO on any matter affecting Commission Business. The SPO will exist to aid in the smooth operation of the Commission and it will not develop “formal” Commission Work Products. The intent of the SPO is to convene as soon as practicable after each Commission meeting to discuss Commission operations.

Work Products Anticipated:
The NCFS is anticipated to vote to approve the following final work products:

  • Views Document on AFIS Interoperability
  • Recommendation on Root Cause Analysis
  • Views Document on Pretrial Discovery of Forensic Materials
  • Views Document on Testimony Using the Term “Scientific Certainty”
  • Recommendation on Increasing the Supply of Forensic Pathologists
  • Recommendation on Electronic Networking of Medical Examiner and Coroner Offices

The NCFS is anticipated to consider the following initial Draft Work Products Open for Public Comment:

  • Views Document on Ensuring that Forensic Analysis is Based Upon Task-Relevant Information
  • Views Document on Report Content
  • Recommendation on Developing a National Forensic Science Curriculum

New OSTP Representative: The President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) representative Tania Simoncelli will be moving on and her spot as the Assistant Director for Forensic Science will be vacant. A new OSTP representative is expected to be announced at the next Commission meeting.

To stay up-to-date on the activities and work products of the Commission, members are encouraged to visit www.justice.gov/ncfs.