President’s Spotlight—June 2020

Source: Jeri D. Ropero-Miller, PhD, AAFS President

Today I address you, the Academy membership, greatly saddened and overwhelmed with questions as to how social injustice and disturbing deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others are continuing to occur. Our Nation is embroiled in civil unrest and demand for action against racism, intolerance, and injustice that continue to exist in our country. Because we serve many communities and help the forensic sciences support truth in evidence, we cannot allow inaction and silence in our daily work or in our own professional community of the Academy. We must address persistent biases in all of our communities.

In 2011, the AAFS established a Diversity and Outreach Committee (DOC) to work collaboratively on issues related to diversity, inclusion, and outreach. I was a member of the inaugural committee which created a Diversity and Inclusion Statement for our Policy and Procedure Manual the following year. At our annual meeting in Anaheim this past February, the AAFS Board of Directors revised and approved its Diversity and Inclusion Statement (Citation 1.1.4) as a continued commitment to promote an improved environment through shared values of all members, which benefits our organization, as well as the greater forensic science community.

The American Academy of Forensic Sciences embraces the benefits, assets, and contributions of diversity of its members who hold varied ideas, beliefs, and experiences. The AAFS: (1) is committed to fostering and maintaining an inclusive community that accepts, respects, and values diversity to include ethnicity/ancestry/self-identified race, national origins, gender and gender identify, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, religion, political views, and disability; (2) honors both the commonalities and differences of all members of our community; and (3) will help to facilitate productive dialogue and inclusivity so that all members can thrive in a safe and open environment. The AAFS believes that diversity and inclusion provide an improved environment through shared values of all members, which benefits our organization as well as the greater forensic science community. As such, the AAFS has no tolerance for discrimination of any kind.

This past week, I held meetings with the Chair of the Diversity and Outreach Committee, Sean Tallman, and the Board of Directors to discuss how the Academy can uphold the goals of the DOC and the Academy leadership to serve its membership and the communities they serve. These meetings will continue. While many may ask when and will the Academy provide a position statement on these matters, the Board of Directors considered our policies and procedures for issuing a position statement and decided that we would prepare a message that was timely, appropriate, and supportive of all Academy members. This message embraces our Mission and our Diversity and Inclusion statement which should be the foundation to our work and our actions. It can be found on the Academy website. In the coming months, we will continue to identify, plan, and execute new initiatives and measurable actions in which the Academy will make a difference and further commit to enriching and ensuring we are providing leadership to advance science and its application to the legal system; promoting education to foster research; improving practice; and encouraging diverse, inclusive collaboration in the forensic sciences.

Not quite a month ago, I shared my first Presidential message promising to work with you, the Academy membership, “in moving the Academy vision forward through a challenging, yet productive year!” COVID-19, workforce shortages, and the ongoing drug crisis were already deeply and vastly affecting many Academy members, yet our continued Nation’s struggle with racism, injustice, and bias are amongst the important issues we must increase our efforts to be ever vigilant. We must unite and continue our alliances and commitment to serve our public in a professional and humanitarian way and keep our pledge to vigilantly respect and uphold diversity and inclusion, while thwarting discrimination.