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Justice proposes forensic science governing body

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The Justice Department will create a committee to develop guidance and policy recommendations for forensic science and its use in court.

According to a notice printed Feb. 22 in the Federal Register, Justice plans to establish the National Commission on Forensic Science, co-chaired by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, to provide guidance on the use and standards of forensic science for federal, state and local scientists, law enforcement, attorneys and judges.

The commission will also create a uniform professional code for scientists and minimum requirements for certification or accreditation.

In 2009, the National Research Council published a report finding that the forensic science community lacks consistent certification requirements for both laboratories and practitioners, has inconsistent practices and methods, and suffers from lack of effective oversight.

An April 2012 Frontline documentary also drew attention to lack of forensic science standards by having a ProPublica journalist with no forensics background obtain an American College of Forensic Examiners International certificate after undergoing a 90 minute online course that cost $495. In a statement, ACFEI says its certificates does not make its holder an expert. 

The commission will have approximately 30 people and DOJ says it wants forensic and academic scientists, law enforcement and legal counsel and judges from all levels of government represented. The notice in the Federal Register says individuals can apply for an appointment to the committee now through March 25, 2013.

For more:
- read the notice in the Federal Register
- go to the download page of the 2009 NRC report on forensic science

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