This is a report on the 2016 meeting of representatives of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) with forensic laboratory directors from various regions of the United States for the purpose of identifying and discussing the needs and challenges facing the forensic science practitioner community.
NIJ’s Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences (OIFS) is the federal government’s lead agency for forensic science research and development, as well as for the administration of programs that provide technical assistance, technology transition, and the promotion of efficiency in the nation’s forensic laboratories. NIJ, through its Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE), and in collaboration with the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD), selected a diverse group of laboratory directors to attend the 2016 meeting. The meeting was attended by 27 laboratory directors who represented 16 states, 3 counties, and 8 cities. Attention was given to having laboratories that were receiving Coverdell and DNA funding for their laboratories. The dual purpose of the meeting was to 1) obtain information and feedback on NIJ programs dedicated to forensic science laboratories and 2) provide an opportunity for an open discussion of the needs and challenges facing forensic science practitioners. It was clear from meeting discussions that both the federal DNA CEBR and Coverdell programs are critical resources that strengthen the quality of forensic science in the United States; however, forensic laboratories continue to be challenged by the increasing demand for DNA and other forensic analyses, notably in sexual assault cases. NIJ’s strategic response to these challenges aims to increase laboratory capacity and efficiency, decrease the price of testing, and increase CODIS uploads and hits.