September 22, 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), an advisory
group of leading scientists and engineers appointed by the President, has praised the
Houston Forensic Science Center for its independent model and for implementing a
blind quality control program. The final report is attached.
“HFSC is flattered to have been recognized by this prestigious council and will continue
to work toward forensic excellence that best serves the justice system and the citizens of
Houston,” said Dr. Daniel Garner, HFSC’s CEO and president.
The council in its report to the president titled Forensic Science in the Criminal Courts:
Ensuring Scientific Validity of Feature-Comparison Methods noted that Houston, after
numerous problems in its crime lab, decided to make the forensic disciplines
independent of law enforcement. PCAST stated that the 2009 report by the National
Academy of Sciences recommended forensic labs be independent of law enforcement
and prosecutors, in part to make them more objective. Houston, the president’s council
said, “succeeded in transitioning the laboratory into an independent forensic science
center.”
HFSC is overseen by a nine-member board of directors appointed by the mayor and
confirmed by City Council. The directors, however, can only be removed for
malfeasance. The design is meant to “insulate the Center from undue influence by
police, prosecutors, elected officials or special interest groups,” the report stated.
Later in its report, PCAST calls for forensic laboratories to institute blind proficiency
testing which would not only help pinpoint quality issues that might exist in the
process, but also help address contextual bias. The report points out that HFSC has
implemented blind proficiency testing in the firearms, controlled substances and
toxicology sections and plans on expanding the program to DNA and latent prints.
“PCAST believes that test-blind proficiency testing of forensic examiners should be
vigorously pursued, with the expectation that it should be in wide use, at least in large
laboratories, within the next five years,” the report states, adding that it cannot yet be
required because procedures have not been implemented.
CONTACT INFORMATION:
Ramit Plushnick-Masti
Director of Communications/PIO
media@houstonforensicscience.org
http://www.houstonforensicscience.org/
713-929-6768
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