The North Carolina State Crime Laboratory began operating under stringent new standards Monday as it completes the next stage of achieving international accreditation and seeks to become the only crime lab in the country accredited by two outside organizations.
Forensic laboratories across the country are moving to the ISO 17025, international standards that provide a global basis for laboratory accreditation in management and technical requirements.
Forensic scientists at the State Crime Lab analyze crime scene evidence including digital evidence, drugs, DNA, firearms, fingerprints, hair and fibers and also provide expert testimony in court as needed. Lab facilities include the main lab in Raleigh, the Triad Regional Crime Lab in Greensboro, and the Western Regional Crime Lab in Asheville.
The NC State Crime Lab will seek to continue its accreditation from the nation’s largest accrediting group and add a new accreditation, which could make it the only lab in the country with dual-accreditation.
“Our scientists are already experts in their fields and nearly all of those eligible have achieved independent certification in a forensic science discipline, a designation not required by most labs, public or private, throughout the country,” said Judge Joe John, Assistant State Crime Lab Director. “The new ISO standards raise the high bar we have set for ourselves even higher as we continue to strive to be the very best forensic laboratory in the country.”
The new standards are available online at www.ncdoj.gov and public comment is welcomed through Oct. 15, 2012. Comments may be forwarded to the State Crime Laboratory by emailing senior lab management at email@example.com.
“I think it’s good,” said Rockingham Police Chief Billy Kelly. “It just shows the effort and willingness of the Crime Lab to be the best, as well as to keep abreast of scientific and technological advances. We rely on the Crime Lab heavily with evidence that we submit. From a forgery case to a homicide — we rely on them to help us solve our cases.”
All 124 forensic scientists and analysts at the Crime Lab are operating under the new standards as of Monday. The accrediting agencies, American Society of Crime Lab Director Lab Accreditation Board (ASCLD-LAB) and Forensic Quality Services, require that laboratories work under the new guidelines for a period of months before accreditation.
The lab has been accredited by ASCLD-LAB since 1988 and with each reaccreditation must undergo a full review of the laboratory including an on-site inspection of the forensic disciplines.
The new ISO standards have undergone intensive legal and practical review, John said, resulting in a thorough evaluation prior to implementation. The North Carolina Forensic Science Advisory Board, made up of forensic experts from around the country, has also reviewed the standards.
“I give kudos to the state director of the SBI, Greg McLeod, with his attitude toward excellence,” said Richmond County Sheriff James Clemmons Jr. “He knows there have been issues in the past with the SBI and they are doing everything they can to correct those — to bring about good employees and follow procedures that will assist us in not only getting accurate investigations and reports, but also to be able to present these findings in court.
“Any and everything they’re doing at this particular point in time has been a positive step. We in law enforcement will benefit by the actions taken by Greg and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation,” Clemmons said.