This is a summary report of a meeting of a diverse group of stakeholders from across the United States for the purpose of obtaining input on strengthening medicolegal death investigations (MDI) nationally.
The meeting was held on February 5-6, 2018, under the sponsorship of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The threefold purpose of the meeting was to 1) begin a formal dialogue and engage with the MDI community to better understand how NIJ can assist with high-priority needs; 2) identify solutions for challenges encountered by MDI stakeholders; and 3) inform NIJ’s programs and initiatives based on the needs of the MDI community. This report presents an overview of the meeting, its objectives, and topics discussed. In discussing NIJ’s programs and strategic approach in addressing the needs of the forensic science community, attendees discussed strengthening the NIJ Medical Examiner-Coroner System Program and the Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grant Program. The discussion of NIJ’s program to fund research and development (R&D) in forensic science included a focus on the testing and interpretation of physical evidence in publicly funded forensic laboratories. Another discussion addressed the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. Based on the discussions, it was clear that NIJ programs are critical resources that strengthen the quality of forensic science in the U.S. MEC offices; however, MEC offices continue to be challenged by the lack of forensic pathologists and other professionals in the forensic field. This problem is compounded by challenges in promoting forensic science among the medical student body. NIJ reports that it will continue to develop and evaluate programs that focus on the needs of the MDI community and stakeholders, including addressing gaps and enhancing capacity, accuracy, reliability, and efficiency.