HISTORY OF THE
AMERICAN SOCIETY OF CRIME LABORATORY DIRECTORS
LABORATORY ACCREDITATION BOARD (ASCLD/LAB)
In the fall of 1973, a group of forty-seven (47) crime laboratory directors from around the United States were invited to meet with FBI Director Clarence Kelly, FBI Assistant Director Briggs White and other FBI personnel in Quantico, Virginia. The purpose of the meeting was to open channels of communication between crime laboratories around the country and the FBI. The meeting was well received and led to an agreement that an association of crime laboratory directors should be created. In the spring of 1974, a smaller group of individuals, who attended the initial meeting, met and began working on an organizational proposal.
In the fall of 1974, a second meeting of laboratory directors was held at Quantico. The participants at this second meeting officially formed the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD).
During the same time period that ASCLD was being born, a national voluntary proficiency testing program was initiated and carried out by the Forensic Science Foundation with funding from the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA). The reported results of this voluntary proficiency testing soon made front page headlines in most newspapers around the country. The results reported from the voluntary testing implied that there were serious concerns about the quality of work performed in some of the nation’s crime laboratories.
The newly formed ASCLD recognized that action must be taken to establish standards of operation for crime laboratories and to take appropriate steps to restore public confidence in the work performed by the nation’s crime laboratories.
As a result, one of the early committees appointed by ASCLD was the Committee on Laboratory Evaluation and Standards. Members of that committee were Tony Longhetti, Jack Cadman, George Ishi, Carlos Rabren, Travis Owen and Ralph Keaton. The committee was chaired by George Ishii, Tony Longhetti and Jack Cadman at various times. For approximately four years, the committee considered and worked on various programs that could be used to evaluate and improve the quality of laboratory operations. The committee considered individual certification, a self-assessment program and an accreditation program based on external peer review as a possible means of achieving the goal.
Each year the committee presented its work and proposals to the ASCLD membership at its annual meeting for input and approval. The committee eventually became the ASCLD Committee on Laboratory Accreditation and a program of laboratory accreditation was approved in concept by the ASCLD membership in the fall of 1980. On June 11, 1981, the committee held an organizational meeting in Quantico. At that meeting the committee which consisted of the original members was expanded by adding Joe Gormly from the National Association of Chiefs of Police and Ron Myers from the National District Attorneys Association. The first Board of Directors of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) met and elected Carlos Rabren from Alabama Department of Forensic Science as the first chairman and Travis Owen from the Acadiana Crime Laboratory in Louisiana as the first executive secretary.
In February 1982, an informal meeting of the Board was held at the AAFS meeting in Orlando. At that meeting Chairman Rabren announced receipt of the first applications for accreditation from the eight laboratories of the Illinois State Police. He announced that he had appointed an inspection team consisting of Tom Nasser, James Buttram, Daniel Dowd and Stanley Sobel. An inspection fee of $5,250.00 was approved.
In May 1982, the inspection reports for the eight (8) laboratories were considered by the Board and the eight laboratories from the Illinois State Police became the first eight (8) laboratories accredited by ASCLD/LAB. In September 1982, three (3) laboratories from the Arizona Department of Public Safety were accredited. The next laboratories accredited included six (6) laboratories from the Washington State Patrol, the Oakland Police Department, the Kansas City Police Department, the Burlington County, New Jersey Forensic Laboratory, the Bureau of ATF San Francisco and Rockville laboratories, three (3) laboratories of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the University of Tennessee Toxicology and Chemical Pathology Laboratory.
In September 1984, four (4) laboratories from the Michigan State Police were accredited bringing the total of accredited laboratories to thirty (30) representing ten (10) laboratory systems. This number of accredited laboratories and accredited organizations met the pre-determined minimum numbers of twenty-five (25) laboratories and ten (10) laboratory systems required by the bylaw to form a Delegate Assembly as the new governing body for ASCLD/LAB.
In November 1984, ASCLD/LAB Chair Thomas Nasser sent a notice to all Delegate Assembly members that the Delegate Assembly would meet for the first time in September 1985 during the annual meeting of ASCLD at Quantico. At the September 1985 meeting of the ASCLD/LAB Board, the US Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory at Fort Gillem, Georgia and seven (7) laboratories of the Oregon State Police were accredited bringing the total number of laboratories eligible for the first Delegate Assembly meeting to thirty-eight (38). The Delegate Assembly held its first meeting and became the official governing body of the ASCLD/LAB Accreditation Program in September 1985.
On February 4, 1988, ASCLD/LAB was incorporated as a non-profit corporation in the state of Missouri. ASCLD/LAB continues to be incorporated in Missouri.
In the five years following the first Delegate Assembly meeting, fifty-four (54) laboratories from sixteen (16) different governmental organizations were granted accreditation. During the next five years from June 1987 to June 1992, thirty-six additional laboratories representing seventeen (17) organizations were accredited. Included in the number of labs accredited during the second five years was the South Australia State Forensic Science Laboratory at Adelaide which in February 1990 became the first international laboratory accredited by ASCLD/LAB.
During the five-year period of June 1992 through June 1997, seventy-two additional laboratories representing thirty-two (32) organizations were accredited. In September 1993, the Centre of Forensic Science in Toronto was accredited becoming the second international laboratory in ASCLD/LAB. In October 1994, Chair Paul Ferrara signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with NATA of Australia for joint inspections and accreditations of Australian crime laboratories. Seven (7) additional Australian laboratories were accredited in Australia as a result of the MOU. Accreditation of other international laboratories followed with the accreditation of the New Zealand Police Document Examination Section, the Singapore Centre of Forensic Sciences, the Hong Kong Government Laboratory Forensic Science Division, three (3) New Zealand Environmental Science and Research laboratories, the Centre of Forensic Sciences laboratory in Sault Ste. Marie, Canada and the Hong Kong Police Force Forensic Firearms Examination Bureau.
At the fall 1994 meeting of the Delegate Assembly, Board Chair Paul Ferrara made a presentation and a plea concerning the need for creating a paid position to handle the rapidly increasing workload associated with receiving applications for accreditation and the processing of inspection reports. Dr. Ferrara made it clear that volunteers could no longer effectively manage the day-to-day work required to run a quality accreditation program. On September 1, 1995, Ralph Keaton, who had retired from the state of North Carolina, began working as a part-time Executive Secretary and established an ASCLD/LAB office in his home.
The workload and interest in accreditation continued to grow at an ever increasing rate. In January 2000, office space was leased at 139 J Technology Drive in Garner, North Carolina. The position of Executive Secretary had become a full-time position which was changed to Executive Director. In the spring of 2000, Tara Dolin was employed as a full-time Administrative Assistant and Amy Chalk was employed as a part-time Bookkeeper. In September 2000, ASCLD/LAB employed Richard Frank, Michael Johnston and William Smith as the first three Staff Inspectors. In May 2002, John Neuner was employed as the first Quality Manager for ASCLD/LAB. The number of Staff Inspectors has increased to nine. A listing of all ASCLD/LAB staff with contact information is available on this site.
The accreditation program is and has been a very dynamic program, constantly making upgrades to improve the quality of the accreditation process and to ensure that the stated objectives of the accreditation program are being met. Some the significant changes made over the years are listed below.
In 1992, a requirement for laboratories to conduct an annual review of the laboratory and to submit a report to ASCLD/LAB was added.
In the 1993 Manual, the following changes were made:
- Proficiency Review Committees (PRCs) were established and laboratories were required to participate in ASCLD/LAB approved proficiency testing programs which were external to the laboratory.
- A requirement for individual competency testing prior to assuming casework responsibility was added.
- Four (4) Quality System criteria calling for a Quality Manual, a Quality Manager, Annual Review of the laboratory and an annual audit of the quality system were added to the program as Important criteria.
- The discipline of DNA was added to the program and laboratories performing DNA analysis were required to follow the SWGDAM “Guidelines for RFLP Typing of DNA.”
In 1997, an Essential requirement was added that each examiner must participate in an annual proficiency test in each discipline in which casework is performed.
In 1999, the following changes were made:
- Compliance with Important criteria was elevated from 70% to 75% in order to achieve accreditation.
- Criterion 22.214.171.124 was elevated from Important to Essential and the wording was changed to require a “documented” training program in each functional area of the laboratory.
- Quality System criteria 126.96.36.199-188.8.131.52 were elevated from Important to Essential.
- Individual proficiency testing requirements were upgraded to require successful completion of tests. Successful completion was defined.
- Important criterion 184.108.40.206 was added calling for subdiscipline proficiency testing.
- Criterion 3.3.5, concerning laboratory security was elevated to Essential.
In 2000, the discipline of Crime Scene was added, becoming the first and only optional discipline for accreditation.
In 2001, the following changes were made:
- An applicant laboratory was required for the first time to have a criteria file.
- Applicant laboratories were required to provide inspection teams with technical procedure manuals prior to the on-site inspection.
- The disciplines of Serology and DNA became subdisciplines of the combined Biology discipline.
- Auditing of inspection reports was implemented to bring greater consistency to the inspection process.
In 2003, the following changes were made:
- Digital Evidence was added as an accredited discipline.
- Individual characteristic databases such as CODIS, NIBIN and AFIS were included in the inspection process.
- Interim inspections were established as a third form of compliance monitoring, along with proficiency testing and annual audit reports.
The 2003 Delegate Assembly approved the implementation of a dual-track accreditation program which is being implemented effective April 1, 2004. In addition to the ongoing accreditation program which is now referred to as the Legacy Program, ASCLD/LAB has initiated the ASCLD/LAB-International Accreditation Program which is based on the ISO 17025 Standard and Supplemental Requirements which include the essential elements of the Legacy Program and relevant requirements of ILAC G19. Details on the ASCLD/LAB-International Program are available on this site.
On September 12, 2008, ASCLD/LAB received IAAC Recognition. ASCLD/LAB was formally accepted by the IAAC as a signatory to the IAAC Multi-lateral Recognition Arrangement (MRA). This action means that ASCLD/LAB, and specifically the ASCLD/LAB-International accreditation program for testing laboratories, gained regional recognition and was accepted as operating in conformance with ISO and IAAC standards and practices. ASCLD/LAB was the first Forensic Science Accrediting Body in the United States to achieve this recognition.
As of March 31, 2009, after twenty-seven years of accrediting crime laboratories under a program that had, in recent years, been named the ASCLD/LAB Legacy Accreditation Program, ASCLD/LAB no longer accepts new applications for accreditation under the program. All new applications for accreditation must be submitted under the ASCLD/LAB-International Accreditation Program. ASCLD/LAB will continue to fully support the many laboratories which are currently accredited under the Legacy Program and those laboratories which have submitted applications for accreditation under the program prior to April 1, 2009.
On April 7, 2009, ASCLD/LAB received International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) Recognition. On that date, ASCLD/LAB became the first forensic science accrediting body in the US to achieve both IAAC regional recognition and ILAC international recognition to offer accreditation under ISO/IEC 17025:2005.
As of May 2009, there are 359 laboratories accredited by ASCLD/LAB. Included in the accredited laboratories are 181 state laboratories, 117 local agency laboratories, 22 federal laboratories, 12 international (non-US) laboratories and 27 private. There are 85 crime laboratories accredited under the ASCLD/LAB-International Testing Program, 2 crime laboratories accredited under the ASCLD/LAB-International Calibration Program, and 272 crime laboratories accredited under the ASCLD/LAB Legacy Program.