State Police Lab becomes 1st in NJ to
Receive Coveted International Accreditation
Hamilton Twp., Mercer County, NJ - The New Jersey State Police Office of Forensic Science has just become the first laboratory in New Jersey to be accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) under their International Accreditation Program. This International accreditation requires labs to meet more rigorous standards than previously attained.
Howard J. Baum, Ph.D., became director of the Office of Forensic Science in March of 2008 and supervised the bulk of the enhanced accreditation process. The preparation prior to assessment took 18 months and covered more than 500 requirements including document control, control of non-conforming work, audits, personnel qualifications, training, quality assurance, competency and proficiency testing, instruments and methods validations, laboratory reports, and more. The State Police laboratories officially received accreditation on April 28, 2009.
Attorney General Anne Milgram said, "This is a significant achievement and I congratulate Dr. Baum and all those at the forensic lab for their hard work in making this possible. Forensic analysis supports our ability to investigate and prosecute crimes. It is a crucial tool in law enforcement's arsenal."
Crime lab accreditation is voluntary, but demonstrates that a lab’s management, personnel, operational and technical procedures, equipment and physical facilities meet established standards. Accreditation helps any laboratory provide better overall service to the criminal justice system. Additionally, the Office of Forensic Sciences is required to be accredited in order to receive federal grant funds and to participate in the CODIS program, which is the national DNA database.
"This accreditation assures our clients (police agencies, prosecutors, the defense, and the courts) that our work product is of the highest quality and that our laboratory system has gone through an external review. Credit for the accreditation goes to all our employees who have demonstrated excellence and dedication on a daily basis. I'm glad they have received official recognition of their efforts," said Baum.
The Office of Forensic Sciences is accredited in DNA, controlled substances, toxicology, serology, tool marks and trace evidence (paint, fibers, textiles, gunshot residue, hair, glass, explosives, fire debris, footwear, and tires). The office will receive six separate accreditation certificates; one each for the North Regional Laboratory in Little Falls, (Drugs, Toxicology, Arson), the East Regional Laboratory in Sea Girt, (Drugs, Toxicology, Arson), the South Regional Laboratory in Hammonton, (Drugs, Toxicology, Arson), the Central Regional Laboratory in Hamilton (Drugs, Toxicology, Criminalistics- Arson, Trace Evidence, Biological Stain Analysis), the DNA Laboratory in Hamilton (Nuclear DNA Analysis, Mitochondrial DNA Analysis, CODIS), and a certificate for the Office of Forensic Sciences as a whole.
There are 359 laboratories accredited by ASCLD/LAB. Of those, 273 laboratories are accredited to the older Legacy requirements and 86 laboratories are accredited to international (ISO) standards. The Office of Forensic Sciences accounts for 5 of the 86 ASCLD/LAB Internationally Accredited Laboratories.
Background on the Office of Forensic Science
The Office of Forensic Sciences (OFS) is part of the New Jersey State Police Investigations Branch. The OFS is composed of five Crime laboratories that offer forensic analyses and subsequent expert testimony on matters relative to criminal statutes. These services are available to federal, state, county and local law enforcement agencies investigating matters within the State of New Jersey. Scientific examinations in areas of Criminalistics, Nuclear DNA, Mitochondrial DNA, DNA Databasing (CODIS), Drugs, and Toxicology evidence are provided by the laboratory system. Additionally, OFS also contains Equine Testing Laboratory and Forensic Anthropology Laboratory. OFS is responsible for the scientific management of the statewide breath-testing program using the Alcotest 7110 Mark III-C instrument.
In 2008, the combined total number of cases received by the forensic laboratories was 40,705, an increase of 2% over the previous year. The highest increase was in Forensic Biology (popularly known as DNA) cases, which received 5,395 cases, an increase of 24% over the previous year. Criminalistics (Trace and Arson) units saw an increase of almost 9% in the number of cases received in 2008. The units received 633 cases as compared to 584 in the previous year. Drugs and Toxicology submissions remained substantial unchanged from the previous year.
The Equine laboratory tested 39,828 samples obtained from Standardbred and Thoroughbred racehorses, and met the sample turn around requirements of the New Jersey Racing Commission. The Forensic Anthropology Lab received 38 cases of unidentified remains.
The CODIS program of the DNA laboratory has been a tremendous success in solving numerous cases which otherwise would have remained unsolved. The CODIS unit has received 23,777 samples from convicted offenders and processed 28,135 samples, a 34% increase from the previous year. As of May 8, 2009, the New Jersey CODIS database contained 187,249 convicted offender profiles and 6,557 forensic unknown profiles. The total number of “hits” in the New Jersey State CODIS program now stands at 2,873. Hits were made to convicted offender and crime scene samples from most of the states in the U.S. The total number of investigations aided from these hits is 3,121. The CODIS program currently does not have any backlog of convicted offender samples.
The DNA laboratory also has within its control one of only three, FBI-partnered regional mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) laboratories The mtDNA laboratory performs mtDNA analysis when nuclear DNA is not feasible as is the case with unidentified remains or when extremely deteriorated DNA evidence is encountered. In 2008, this laboratory has completed 131 assignments and exceeded the goal of 120 for the year. The mtDNA laboratory is an important part of New Jersey’s enactment of Patricia’s Law requiring all missing person’s cases and unidentified human remains to be processed for DNA.
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