Draft of Forensic Science Reform Bill Released

Forensic science: Too old-school?
The office of U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has released a draft version of legislation to reform the field of forensic science across the country -- an effort that could eventually have an impact on the troubled San Francisco Police Department crime lab.

Amy Driver, who runs a blog, BulletPath, which covers all things forensics-related, has obtained and published the draft bill on her site. Driver also summarizes the bill's noteworthy points, which include the following:

-- An Office of Forensic Science based within the U.S. Department of Justice.

-- A 19-member advisory forensic science board, with at least five scientific experts and five experts in forensic science specifically.

-- Mandatory accreditation for any forensics lab receiving federal funds.

At present, the closest thing to a universal accreditation body in the field of forensic science is the American Society of Crime Lab Directors (ASCLD), a professional association with a voluntary accreditation process. Many have criticized ASCLD for lax oversight of crime labs.

The issue of forensic standards is a relevant one in San Francisco, where the police department's forensics lab has been rocked this year by a succession of scandals, including a rogue drug technician who admitted to stealing cocaine samples and the concealment of problems with DNA evidence.

Driver tells SF Weekly that the bill looks good in its early form. "I'm pretty happy with it," she says. "It really signals [Leahy's] intent to include all stakeholders, and not just the good-ole-boy system that's controlled us for so long."

Here is the full text of the draft bill.

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