PART SEVEN: SUMMARY OF OIG RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE FBI LABORATORY

 

This section presents in outline format the OIG's recommendations for the FBI Laboratory that are discussed at greater length in the preceding section.

 

I.ASCLD/LAB Accreditation and External Review

 

1.The Laboratory should pursue accreditation at the earliest possible time.

 

2.In addition to the inspection required for accreditation, external reviews of the Laboratory should occur periodically through audits by the OIG or reviews involving scientists from other forensic laboratories.

 

II.Restructuring the Explosives Unit

 

1.The Explosives Unit should be restructured to clarify its mission and to assure that scientific analyses are performed by qualified examiners.

 

2.Within the Laboratory, the primary mission of the Explosives Unit should be the forensic examination of evidence by qualified scientists.

 

3.The Explosives Unit should advise and assist in gathering evidence at bombing scenes, but primary responsibility for conducting investigations and directing crime-scene management should rest with components of the FBI outside the Scientific Analysis Section.

 

4.The unit chief and examiners in the Explosives Unit should have scientific backgrounds in pertinent disciplines such as chemistry, metallurgy, or engineering, as well as technical training in the assembly, deactivation, and reconstruction of explosive devices and the examination of bombing scenes.

 

5.To avoid contamination, swab kits, clothing, and evidence to be examined for traces of explosives would preferably first be sent to a designated area that is physically separate from the main Explosives Unit facility. The area designated for the receipt of evidence requiring residue analysis should have strictly controlled access and appropriate procedures to monitor and prevent contamination.

 

III.Principal and Auxiliary Examiners

 

1.In place of the existing distinction between Principal and Auxiliary examiners, the Laboratory should instead identify a Coordinating Examiner for each case. That person would serve as the contact with the entity requesting the examination of evidence and would coordinate work by other examiners within the Laboratory.

 

2.The Laboratory should develop guidelines for the respective roles of the coordinating examiner and other examiners in case work, preparation of reports, and the presentation of testimony.

 

3.Disagreements among examiners over forensic methods or the interpretation of results should be resolved based on pertinent scientific knowledge. If supervisors become involved in resolving such disputes, it is important that their ultimate decision be clearly communicated to the examiners involved and that it be reflected in any resulting reports.

 

IV.Report Preparation

 

1.In place of the existing procedure whereby the principal examiner assembles a report based on dictation from other examiners, each examiner who analyzes evidence should prepare and sign a separate report.

 

2.In cases where it is desirable for the coordinating examiner to prepare a summary report interpreting the overall significance of findings by other examiners, the CE should circulate drafts of the summary report among the relevant examiners to solicit their views before the report is released.

 

3.Reports should be clear, concise, objective and understandable. They should fully disclose the involvement of the issuing examiner in the case and all pertinent information and findings.

 

4.Examiners should limit their conclusions to those that logically follow from the underlying data and analytical results. An examiner should not draw conclusions that overstate the significance of the technical or scientific examinations; nor should an examiner base forensic conclusions on unstated assumptions or information that is collateral to the examinations performed.

 

V.Adequate Peer Review

 

1.Before being released, each report should be substantively reviewed to confirm that its conclusions are reasonable and scientifically based. This review should be done by the unit chief or by another qualified examiner in instances where the unit chief is the reporting examiner or lacks the requisite expertise to review another's work.

 

VI.Case Documentation

 

1.The Laboratory should assure that case files include all notes, printouts, charts and other data or records used by examiners to reach their conclusions.

 

2.The case files should contain sufficient information so that another qualified scientist can understand all the analyses that were done, the results obtained, and the basis for the examiner's conclusions.

 

3.Retrospective case file reviews or audits -- which we distinguish from a substantive review at the time of report preparation -- should be conducted periodically to assure that reports are supported by appropriate analysis and documentation.

 

VII.Record Retention

 

1.The Laboratory must develop a record retention and retrieval system that assures case files are complete and readily retrievable.

 

VIII.Examiner Training and Qualification

 

1.The Laboratory should implement a uniform curriculum for examiner training that addresses common issues such as case documentation, report preparation examiner ethics, and testimony.

 

2.The moot courts used in the qualification process should address not only substantive knowledge and presentation skills, but also an examiner's ability to recognize the limits to his or her opinions and expertise.

 

3.The Laboratory should consider using experienced examiners from other laboratories as participants in moot courts for examiner qualification.

 

4.Qualified examiners should participate periodically in exercises simulating court room testimony, both to reevaluate their skills and to provide training demonstrations for less-experienced examiners.

 

5.The uniform training curriculum should emphasize that the Laboratory's function is to provide reliable and objective forensic results. The training program should also address the roles and responsibilities of the various Laboratory components and the importance of open communication and cooperation among examiners.

 

6.Training curricula for specific units should be clearly stated. Documented completion of the approved curriculum should be required before an examiner issues reports or conclusions. Any departures from the specified curriculum should also be documented and approved by both the unit chief and the SAS chief.

 

IX.Examiner Testimony

 

1.The Laboratory should include courtroom testimony as part of the uniform training curriculum for new examiners.

 

2.The Laboratory should adopt written guidelines concerning examiner testimony. Such guidelines should expressly state that examiners in testifying should: (a) accurately and completely disclose their involvement in the matter; (b) be clear, straightforward, and objective in their answers to questions on direct and cross-examination; (c) limit their conclusions to those that logically follow from the underlying data and analytical results; (d) decline to answer questions beyond their expertise; (e) attempt to avoid phrasing their testimony in an ambiguous or possibly misleading manner; and (f) be accurate and complete in describing the analyses done or conclusions made by others, while remaining careful not to stray beyond their own expertise.

 

3.Where it will be necessary for one examiner to testify about work done by others, the Laboratory should attempt prospectively to identify which examiner is best able to address the various matters and to assure that he or she is adequately prepared.

 

4.Testimony by examiners should be monitored at least once each year through observation or transcript review by the unit chief or another qualified examiner.

 

X.Protocols

 

1.The Laboratory should complete the preparation of written protocols that is under way as part of the accreditation process.

 

2.Through an effective program of file review, the Laboratory should assure that the authorized protocols are followed in practice.

 

XI.Evidence Handling

 

1.The Laboratory should continue to refine its written procedures for handling evidence and for avoiding contamination.

 

2.Concerns for the appropriate handling of evidence and prevention of contamination should be incorporated into the design of the proposed new Laboratory facility.

 

3.The Laboratory should support continuing efforts to address contamination issues. Examiners and technicians in the Explosives Unit should receive focused training on this topic. Knowledge of contamination issues should be addressed in the training, qualification, and periodic review of all Laboratory examiners.

 

XII.The Role of Management

 

1.The Laboratory Director and others with significant management responsibilities in the Laboratory should have scientific backgrounds, preferably in forensic sciences. Such persons must also be strongly committed to advancing the Laboratory's quality assurance program and to effective and responsive management.

 

2.Management should strongly reaffirm that the Laboratory's primary function is providing reliable and objective forensic results.

 

3.Management should seek to cultivate among examiners and other Laboratory personnel a stronger attitude of cooperation and commitment to objective inquiry.

 

4.The Quality Assurance Unit (QAU) should be physically located where the Laboratory's forensic work is primarily conducted, and the person in charge of the QAU should report directly to the Laboratory Director.

 

5.Management should promote more interaction with other laboratories through such things as technical working groups and, in appropriate cases, FBI examiners consulting with scientists from other laboratories.

 

6.In responding to concerns about the quality of the Laboratory's work, management must assure that issues are investigated promptly and thoroughly, that the investigation is conducted by appropriately qualified persons, and that any necessary corrective steps are taken. Disagreements about methodology or the interpretation of data must be resolved professionally based on pertinent scientific knowledge and the resolution must be clearly communicated to those involved.

 

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