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Characterizing verification and blind proficiency testing at forensic laboratories

Conference/Workshop:
American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS)
Published: 2022
Primary Author: Maddisen Neuman
Secondary Authors: Anni Hong, Sharon Kelley, Brett Gardner, Robin Mejia

The 2014 Bureau of Justice survey of publicly funded forensic crime laboratories found that while 97% of the country’s 409 public forensic labs reported using some kind of proficiency testing, only 10% reported using blind tests (Burch et al, 2016). Further, local or state laboratories were far less likely to be conducting blind tests than federal laboratories. In October 2018, the Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence (CSAFE), with the Allegheny County Office of the Medical Examiner, hosted a meeting with representatives from seven forensic laboratory systems ranging in size from a single laboratory with fewer than 50 employees to a seven-laboratory system with over 200 employees, to assess interest in implementing blind proficiency testing, and found significant interest as well as numerous obstacles (Mejia et al, 2021). In recent years, an increasing interest in implementing blinding in analyst proficiency tests as well as components of case work, such as verification of findings has been observed at laboratories of different sizes and in different jurisdictions. To help characterize the degree to which these methods are being implemented, we are reviewing websites of forensic laboratories that are accredited by ANAB for latent print analysis to identify those that publish their SOPs publicly. Specifically, we are reviewing SOPs related to proficiency testing and latent print processing, comparison, and verification. To date, we have collected 23 SOPs. We are recording: • If latent print analysis is performed; • if blind proficiency tests are used; • if so, the frequency with which analysts complete blind proficiency tests; • if verification is performed for conclusions of a match or non-exclusion; • if verification is performed on other cases, and, if so, with what frequency; • if blind verification is performed for conclusions of a match or non-exclusion; • if blind verification is performed on other cases, and, if so, with what frequency; • whether and how verification is reported • the type of jurisdiction for the lab (local, regional, state, national, other)

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