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Data Quality Begins in a Glass Jar

NCJ Number
Forensic Magazine Volume: 2 Issue: 4 Dated: August/September 2005 Pages: 13-16
Susan R. Benes
Date Published
August 2005
4 pages
This article examines the status of standards-development for evidence collection at crime scenes.
In June 2004, the U.S. Justice Department released a reference document for the training of crime scene personnel, entitled, "Crime Scene Investigation: A Reference for Law Enforcement Training." It emphasizes the importance of details when documenting and collecting evidence. This document has provided its own standard of quality for field applications in forensic and criminal sciences. In addition to this document, there are numerous other sources that promote good crime-scene practices, including reference books and online sources; however, there is no generally accepted and promulgated code of standards for the collection of forensic evidence. Because environmental science is an application science much like forensic science, parallels can be drawn in the development of evidence-collection standards in the two sciences. Problems such as cross contamination and sample mishandling have been addressed in the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) SW-846 document. Issues addressed in this document include sample handling, the use of proper containers for the evidence, the maintenance of evidence quality, and documentation. Forensic sampling is different from environmental sampling in many respects, so adjustments must be made in these areas, but the standards for environmental sampling provide a model for standards development. A national program would assist all State and local police and crime departments in working under one code of standards for policy and practice. All data generated under these standards would be defensible in court. 3 references