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Joe Polski relates the following announcements via the IAI Monthly
180 Day Study
As noted previously, the IAI along with the AAFS, NAME and ASCLD are named in
recently passed federal legislation to participate in a study of the needs of
the forensic sciences beyond DNA. This study must be completed and reported back
to the Senate Appropriations Committee within 180 days. A few days ago President
Jan Johnson received the official invitation from NIJ Director Sarah Hart to
participate in this study. Three people will represent the IAI at a summit
meeting in late April in Washington, DC. At that time the organizations noted
above will be given the opportunity to present a “status and needs” assessment
for no less than two and no more than four of the disciplines represented by
their respective organizations. President Johnson will be appointing the
representatives to this study committee and in conjunction with the Board of
Directors, select the disciplines for which the IAI will make a presentation.
IAI committees will undoubtedly be called upon to provide data for this study.
Anecdotal information regarding the needs of particular disciplines will be
needed as will as hard statistics, if possible, regarding backlogs, the types of
crimes for which backlogs exist etc. I suspect fingerprints will be a “for sure”
discipline represented by the IAI so the Fingerprint Committee and Certification
Board will be asked for information.
The inclusion of this study in Senate language is a direct result of the work
done by the CFSO and especially the CFSO Washington, DC consultant, Beth Lavach.
We all owe Beth a large debt of gratitude for her tireless work on behalf of the
forensics community in the United States.
2004 St. Louis Conference
By now you should have all received a “save the date” postcard regarding this
summer’s IAI World’s Fair Conference in St. Louis. One vendor has already
committed as a major sponsor and we look forward to others joining in that
A “World’s Fair” theme is planned for the Wednesday evening social event with a
50’s rock ‘n’ roll show as part of the festivities. Negotiations with three
groups who will appear during the Wednesday evening re-creation of the 1904
World’s Fair in St. Louis are almost complete. The entire conference
commemorates and celebrates the 100th anniversary of the introduction of
fingerprint identification in the US that occurred during the 1904 World’s Fair
in St. Louis. IAI Historian Norm Smith has been working tirelessly to gather
historic information about this introduction and promises a rare look at the
early history of fingerprints in the USA. Norm has many posters, photos and
other exhibits that will capture the minds and hearts of anyone who works in the
fingerprint discipline and prove fascinating to all of us.
Conference Planner Ann Punter and her assistants have also been working hard
during the past few months to make this event a success. Educational Program
Planner Jim Gettemy is hard at work on the program and assures attendees it will
be up to the usual superb quality with many new speakers and workshops.
Registrar Roy Reed has been collaborating with IAI Webmaster Jim Arend to
develop a web based conference registration form that will be ready to use for
this summer’s conference. When registration opens in May it will be possible to
register for the conference using any major credit card through the IAI’s
Certification Board Meeting
During January, the Chairs and Secretaries of all IAI certification boards along
with President Jan Johnson, Certification Board Quality Assurance Committee
Chair Herb Pendleton, Legal Counsel Lynne Coker and I met in Morgantown, West
Virginia to finish work on a unified policy and procedures manual for all
certification boards. The meeting was hosted by West Virginia University and I’m
happy to say was a huge success. We accomplished everything on the agenda and
the final product will be ready for approval by the IAI’s Board of Directors by
the end of this month. Thanks to all those who worked so hard for 2˝ days to
make this endeavor a success. In addition to ensuring all programs operate in a
uniform manner, this manual rewrite will bring all IAI certification programs
into compliance with the requirements of the Forensic Specialties Accreditation
Board (FSAB). The IAI will be formally submitting our certification programs to
that board for accreditation in the future. More details about the meeting are
in my March/April JFI column.
Science and the Law Program
Another Science and the Law program sponsored by NIJ and West Virginia
University will take place March 14 – 17, 2004 in Tampa, FL. This conference
presents emerging trends in the use of scientific evidence in the courtroom. The
goals of this conference are twofold: to improve the understanding between
scientists, attorneys and judges and to identify and develop questions for
future research surrounding science and scientists in the criminal justice
For more information please see the following website: www.ilj.org/wvu
American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) Meeting
President Jan Johnson and I will be attending the American Academy of Forensic
Sciences (AAFS) meeting in Dallas during the week of February 16th. A number of
other meetings and events take place during the AAFS meeting. The Forensic
Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB) will meet during that time as will the
Consortium of Forensic Science Organizations (CFSO). The American Society of
Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD) holds a board meeting as does the National
Association of Medical Examiners (NAME). In addition to staffing the IAI’s booth
during the meeting, as Chair of the CFSO, I will be meeting with the Boards of
Directors of NAME, ASCLD and AAFS to update them on CFSO activities. This is
another opportunity to increase the visibility of the IAI and to continue to
build bridges between our sister organizations.
Attorney General Ashcroft and NIJ Director Sarah Hart will be speaking during
the opening ceremonies of the meeting.
Last week, we looked at two more articles critical of the science of
fingerprints. This week we read a few excerpts from an excellent article
by Shaheen Bibi Aumeer regarding quality assurance.
Quality in Australian
Australian Organisation for Quality - New South Wales
Excerpts from the
paper. (The following paragraphs were extracted
from the report, and therefore may appear out of context. The
entire paper is
available on CLPEX.com in the Reference section under Standards)
"This truism of legal history is no less relevant when looked at from the
perspective of quality improvement. In essence, changes to the legal system
have been influenced by society’s general awareness of and demand for elevated
standards. Of particular interest is the way in which forensic science has been
both instituted and subjected to reform as a result of the endeavour for higher
standards of quality. Attention will be focused on Australian issues, with
input from USA and UK experiences and publications, as their histories developed
concurrently with that of Australia."
"Because of the indiscretion of a few practitioners, a lack of rigour in their
activities, or the misinterpretation of forensic evidence by the courts, the
discipline suffered a severe decrease in credibility in the eyes of the legal
system. Faced with such an upset, forensic science was forced to develop new
modes of operation. Obligations, attitudes and scientific processes had to be
rethought in order to satisfy the increasing demands for quality in the field.
In retrospect, the Chamberlain Inquiry has become a watershed in the history of
forensic science in Australia, instigating a paradigm shift towards a focus on
"The problem is that, in court, scientific facts are disputed by lawyers,
not scientists. They have insufficient understanding of the scientific
principles behind the tests to adequately test the claims of an expert and make
suitable objections. Therefore, the onus falls on the forensic scientist to
ensure that their findings have been subjected to the appropriate level of
scrutiny before reporting them. This brings the fallibility of the practitioner
into question. The potential for ignorance, arrogance or incompetence to
infiltrate the scientific field is then very real, and there must be safeguards
in place to ensure that incidents of malpractice are either eradicated totally,
or identified and nullified in court."
"To deal with the minority of improvident practitioners and regain the
confidence of the court, the adoption of an all-encompassing approach to quality
improvement was necessary."
"The contemporary approach to quality in industry is total quality management (TQM).
The methodology integrates all functions and processes within an organisation
with a view to customer satisfaction. The tools used to achieve this are
participation and teamwork, continuous improvement and learning (Evans and
Lindsay, 1999). While developed for industrial applications, the paradigm can be
exploited to optimise the performance of the forensic science community."
"Some of the major considerations of total quality management are depicted in
Figure 1 [on the website], along with specific actions that can be undertaken.
considers the court as the customer, and evaluates the complaints, suggestions
and requirements made for improvement. The development of infrastructure in the
forensic science community and the role of management is explored in Section
4.2. Standardisation and the need for accreditation is dealt with in
Section 4.3, and Section 4.4 looks at continuous improvement and
"The quality of forensic science in Australia has improved considerably over the
two decades since the Chamberlain Inquiry. It is now almost difficult to fathom
the problems that arose during the trial because of the availability of
facilities such as NIFS for consultation, and the culture of collaboration and
quality assurance that now exists in the forensic community."
"The future lies in active participation in continuous quality improvement
strategies, and support for research and development initiatives. To conclude
this report, these parting words:"
“…Enough of talking, it is time now to do…”
(Tony Blair 1953-)
To discuss this Weekly Detail, log on to the CLPEX.com message
More formal latent print discussions are available at
FUNNY FINGERPRINT FIND
This week's FFF is from an anonymous examiner who was looking over some history
stuff and realized that Monday, Feb. 16th (a Weekly Detail day) is the same day
that Thomas Jennings was executed. She relates that this was the first murder
case in the United States involving a conviction based solely on fingerprint
evidence, and that this was the first case in which Edward Foster and some other
historical figures in our discipline testified.
Creativity starts with management. No matter how talented your staffers
are, they can be only as creative and productive as you allow them to be.
If you want to improve their performance, start by improving your management
style. Here's how:
1) Don't micromanage the creative process. You can dictate
objectives and evaluate results, but you can't control what happens in between.
Creative people tend to develop their own ways of solving problems, so you can't
impose your methods without stunting their work.
2) Create a safe working environment. Uncertainty and fear quash
creativity. When people are more concerned about how management will react
to their work than about the work itself, they work for approval, not for
results. Create an informal, relaxed atmosphere to allow staffers to
concentrate on their tasks.
3) Allow for "intelligent failure." Failure is a natural step in the
learning process. So don't get bogged down when things don't work out;
look to the future. Example: If one of your employees writes an ad
that doesn't work, don't say, "Your ad bombed." Say, "It seems that ad
isn't as appealing as the old one. What else can we try?" If you aim
your comments at the problem - instead of the person - you'll keep people
motivated to find a successful solution.
4) Take chances. Big rewards come by taking risks. Playing it
safe often results in mediocre results. That's not to say that you should
ignore proven formulas. But even if you start with a tried-and-true
method, keep looking for new ideas. Breakthrough solutions usually result
from an idea most people thought wouldn't work.
Creating a work environment that encourages creativity can take months or years.
Don't try to change your culture overnight. Start small and introduce
How to Create a More Creative Staff,
by Dean Rieck, via Communication Briefings, August 2003, 800.722.9221, briefings.com.
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Until next Monday morning, don't work too hard or too little.
Have a GREAT week!