The Politics of Forensics in the US is Alive and Well. Here are the players.
The NDAA is the US District Attorneys national group.
The AAFS has a significant percentage of law enforcement crime lab employees in its membership.
The Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board FSAB makes forensic groups “official” and gatekeepers for their disciplines. The crime labbers and others need certifications to meet employment expectations. Each ‘specialty board’ is self governed. This org certifies the bitemarkers.
Hundreds of US crime labs are certified by the ASCLD and a few other ISO 17025 compliance businesses. Most of the examiners have a background with law enforcement. Unfortunately, many US crime labs noted in the media for various scandals have been certified.
What’s my point? Most of these overseer groups, (not the AAFS; here is its PCAST response statement) polarized into a backlash that shot into the forensic unisphere after the PCAST forensic science report drubbed some, but not all, of the LEO bread-and-butter police patterns-matchers. The leaders in this opposition has been the IAI, the DAs, the federal prosecutors, the toolmark and ballistics bunch, some fingerprinters, and a crime lab management and training group all called themselves out as gatekeepers for their status quo. They enjoy much pull being the front lines of CSI “crime fighters.”
The news media and public are now quite aware that there is more to this story. Here’s another part. You now in the Twilight Zone.
I’ve been thinking about the NDAA president’s recent illogical support saying bitemarks in criminal investigations and court are capable of determining whether a person is NOT guilty of violent crime as being shockingly stupid. According to him that means the bitemarkers can tell the police who is innocent of crime. Just like DNA. Incredible.
For forty years they told police who was GUILTY without scientific reasoning which resulted in at least 24 wrongful convictions. But now they have credibility to say who is INNOCENT?
Besides all the above, here’s another piece of the pie.
I’ve recently been given the worthy opinion that any expression that the American Academy of Forensic Science’s has a “certifying” connection with the FSAB is a violation of the AAFS Code of Ethics. Considering my past dustups with some in the AAFS, and the bitemarkers, I’m rather concerned and somewhat confused both from the source and the message. But, regardless of this, I will continue thinking.
I’ve been complaining for years that the FSAB, which was spun-off by the AAFS as a separate corporation in 2000, has from its inception, certified the bitemarkers’ American Board of Forensic Odontology. This dentist bunch does good work in identifying the dead from dental work, but is beyond the pale in matching toothmarks to people suspected of criminal acts. Their scorecard of wrongful convictions underscores what the President’s Council said about their lack of any scientific validation:
“They were looking for two types of validity. According to PCAST, foundational validity means the forensic discipline is based on research and studies that are “repeatable, reproducible, and accurate,” and therefore reliable. The next step is applied validity, meaning the method is “reliably applied in practice.” In other words, for a forensic discipline to produce valid evidence for use in court, there must be (1) reproducible studies on its accuracy and (2) a method used by examiners that is reproducible and accurate.” See “Most Forensic Science is Bogus.” (to anyone looking for more ethical violations, I don’t agree with the title.)
FSAB has alot of AAFS heavy hitters on its ruling board of directors. Here is a reasonable question to the ask in the public interest. Could this relationship having any bearing on bitemarkers’ continuing survival? Could this merely be a coincidence? I suppose the NDAA beliefs will have a chilling effect on this part of forensic science reform regardless of who is in on the FSAB decision making.
More about FSAB.