Richard Saferstein, PhD: Retired Fellow of the Criminalistics Section, July 2017


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Source:  Vincent J. Desiderio, Jr., MS, Section Chair
Written by:  
Thomas A. Brettell, PhD, Retired Fellow of the Criminalistics Section

It is with great fondness that we remember Richard Saferstein, AAFS Retired Fellow, who passed away on July 28, 2017. Dr. Saferstein retired in 1991 from the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) as Chief Forensic Scientist after heading the NJSP Forensic Science Bureau for 21 years. He was a leading national expert and author in the field of forensic science and was a highly sought-after consultant, participating in a multitude of high-profile cases throughout the country. Dr. Saferstein served as an expert witness for a variety of forensic issues more than 2,000 times in nearly 150 federal and state courts. His areas of expertise encompassed breath and blood testing for alcohol, pharmacological effects of alcohol and drugs, detection and identification of drugs in biological fluids, arson-related analysis, and the forensic examination of blood, semen, hair, paint, fiber, and glass evidence. His expertise also included review and evaluation of forensic DNA evidence.

Dr. Saferstein was a prolific writer who authored numerous papers and 14 books and laboratory manuals, including five books published by Prentice-Hall. His most notable is the standard forensic science text, Criminalistics:  An Introduction to Forensic Science, which continues to be the leading textbook in most forensic science academic programs in the United States. Dr. Saferstein was also the editor of the leading professional reference books in forensic science:  Forensic Science Handbook Vol. I, Forensic Science Handbook Vol. II, and Forensic Science Handbook Vol. III. Dr. Saferstein has also authored the book, Forensic Science:  From the Crime Scene to the Crime Lab.

Dr. Saferstein earned a PhD in Chemistry from the City University of New York in 1970. He was elected a Provisional Member to the AAFS Criminalistics Section in 1975, promoted to a Member in 1976, promoted to Fellow in 1977, and became a Retired Fellow this year. He was presented with an award of merit by the AAFS in 1995 and was the recipient of the AAFS 2006 Paul L. Kirk Award for distinguished service and contributions to the field of criminalistics.

Dr. Saferstein’s service to the forensic sciences extended well beyond the activities of the AAFS. His name can be found in the membership rolls of numerous professional organizations, which reflected his broad range of professional interests. He was a member of the American Chemical Society, the International Association for Identification, the Canadian Society of Forensic Scientists, the New Jersey Association of Forensic Scientists, the Northeastern Association of Forensic Scientists, the Mid-Atlantic Association of Forensic Scientists, the Society of Forensic Toxicologists, the New York Microscopical Society, and the Eastern Analytical Symposium (EAS). Dr. Saferstein served as President of EAS in 1989.

Dr. Saferstein was the Rosenblatt Memorial Lecturer in Forensic Science at Northeastern University in 1994, an advisory board member for the Barnett Institute-Northeastern University, and a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Forensic Identification (2001-2017), the Journal of Forensic Sciences (1984-1994), the Microchemical Journal (1988-1995), and the Journal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis (19801984).

Dr. Saferstein presented numerous forensic science seminars, many of which included high school teachers. He was adjunct professor at The College of New Jersey, teaching an Introduction to Forensic Science for more than ten years, and also taught at Widener University School of Law.

Dr. Saferstein is survived by his wife, Gail; son, Neal; daughter Sharon and her husband, James Brophy; grandchildren Xavier and Gabrielle Brophy; sister Rochelle Saferstein; and grandchildren Bernie and Nicki Saferstein.

Thank you, Dr. Brettell, for this beautiful tribute to the memory of Dr. Saferstein.