The field of forensics is undergoing a self-examination after a report by a committee of the National Academy of Sciences found “serious problems” with much of the work performed by crime laboratories in the United States, reports the New York Times. Recent incidents of faulty evidence analysis were just high-profile examples of wider deficiencies, the committee said. Crime labs were overworked, there were few certification programs for investigators and technicians, and the entire field suffered from a lack of oversight.
But perhaps the most damning conclusion was that many forensic disciplines – including analysis of fingerprints and bite marks – were not grounded in the kind of rigorous, peer-reviewed research that is the hallmark of classic science. DNA analysis was an exception, the report noted. But many other investigative tests, the report said, “have never been exposed to stringent scientific scrutiny.” While some forensic experts took issue with that conclusion, many welcomed it. The report was “basically saying what many of us have been saying for a long time,” said Lawrence Kobilinsky of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “There are a lot of areas in forensics that need improvement.”