Ethical Issues for Crime Lab Admin This chapter takes a realistic view of crime laboratory management and administration, in order to ferret out the most significant ethical issues we have experienced with them. It focuses on the obligations and responsibilities of those in supervisory roles, with respect to management, culture, maintenance, and personal issues.
Laboratory Management The National Academy of Science Report (NAS Report) presents the findings of a Congressionally funded system-wide investigation and review of the forensic science disciplines and related crime laboratory practice. Implicit in these findings is the assumption that running a crime laboratory is a scientific endeavor. The laboratories must therefore be managed by scientists, and it must employ scientists, in order to fulfill the requirements of a scientific endeavor.
Laboratory Culture Crime laboratory managers and directors have an ethical obligation to create and nurture a culture of science in order to best serve their scientific mission, as well as the needs of employees. Culture of science exists as a function of both individual and institutional integrity. Scientific integrity refers to consistency with the scientific method and established scientific guidelines, as well as the absence of corruption by other influences.
Laboratory Culture The following are fundamental institutional obligations to an ethical scientific culture: The employment of only qualified individuals, with ethical and professional character; To provide mentorship and leadership that emulates and promotes scientific literacy and professional integrity; To provide clearly stated practice standards and ethical guidelines; To provide opportunities for ongoing collaboration, education and training; To encourage peer review and self correcting enterprise;
Laboratory Culture To provide quality control; To maintain transparency regarding institutional conflicts of interest; To assert zero pressure on employees to produce results favoring the institution; To levy promotions and pay raises based on scientific competence, not outcomes favorable to the institution; To maintain zero tolerance for misconduct, with all allegations to be property investigated; To provide protection for whistleblowers – zero tolerance for negative consequences or reprisal during the investigation of whistleblower complains; To avoid reckless disregard for maintaining scientific integrity.
Alignment with Law Enforcement The vast majority of forensic scientists are employed directly by police agencies or by crime labs associated with law enforcement and the prosecution. However, a conflict of interest exists when the purpose of forensic examinations is to build a case for the prosecution.
Alignment with Law Enforcement Law enforcement and scientific cultures are incompatible for the following reasons: Law enforcement culture promulgates a noble cause belief system that tolerates corruption at variable levels depending on localized leadership and norms. Scientific integrity demands zero tolerance for misconduct of any kind Law enforcement culture is authoritative and coercive, training officer to take charge, solve problems, and maintain control on a continuum of force. Scientific integrity demands that examiners achieve results through empirical research and analytical logical while embracing overall fairness, without the use of threats of coercion of any kind.
Alignment with Law Enforcement Law enforcement culture is aggressive in its approach to problem solving. Scientific integrity demands conservative humility and the consideration of alternatives. Law enforcement culture rewards members for group loyalty and solidarity. Scientific integrity demands that the findings of others be questioned, to the point of skepticism being a scientific virtue. Law enforcement culture embraces the use of differing levels of deception as a means to an end. Scientific integrity demands honesty at all levels of reporting.
Alignment with Law Enforcement Law enforcement culture instills an Us versus Them mentality in its members. Scientific integrity requires examiners to welcome peer review and external inquiry as a necessary part of any validation process. Law enforcement culture is marked by an overall secrecy or code of silence with respect to the errors and misconduct of its membership. Scientific integrity mandates transparency for all methodology, including errors, ad well as the reporting of any and all misconduct.
Alignment with Law Enforcement It is the opinion of the authors that a crime lab is best situated as one of the following: 1.As an independent department or entity within the government, subordinate to the city or county administrator; 2.As a City, County, or State Department of Laboratories, with its own organizational budget and structure, but sharing facilities for equipment; 3.As a division of the court; 4.As a department within a University.
Maintaining the Crime Lab Crime laboratory managers and directors have an ethical obligation to provide employees with adequate workspace and storage. They also have a related obligation to keep workspaces and storage areas both safe, secure, clean, and free from contaminates and infestation.
Laboratory Accreditation The NAS Report recommends that laboratory accreditation and the individual certification of forensic science professionals should be mandatory, and all forensic science professionals should have access to a certified process. Currently, this process is voluntary. The primary accrediting agency associated with forensic science laboratories is the American Society of Crime Lab Directors – Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD-LAB). However, ASCLD-LAB rarely revokes the accreditation of labs employing fraudulent examiners, or those labs demonstrating repeated negligence.
Laboratory Accreditation The following was found by Turvey (2013) regarding laboratory accreditation: 1.If a forensic laboratory is accredited, fraudulent examiners are significantly more likely to exaggerate, embellish, lie about, or otherwise misrepresent results. 2.Laboratory accreditation is significantly correlated to increased falsification of only one kind of physical evidence: DNA. Other types of fraud occur within accredited labs without significant correlation. 3.Accredited laboratories are significantly less likely to impose severe consequences on fraudulent examiners.
Personnel Managers and directors have an ethical obligation to hire and retain only qualified scientists of good character and ethics. This requires the following: 1.Crime lab applicants must have at least an undergraduate scientific education; 2.Crime labs must engage in a comprehensive vetting process to hiring any new personnel; 3.Crime lab applicants must be required to submit a thorough criminal back ground investigation – in and out of state;
Personnel 4.Crime lab applicants must be required to submit to a medical and mental health evaluation, to screen for those with a history of mental disturbance (and related medication), substance abuse, and addiction; 5.Crime labs should adopt a zero tolerance policy with respect to substance abuse, and require all employees to refrain from illegal drug use as part of their employment contracts.
Personnel Additional personnel issues include the following: Competence; Quality control; Research and publication; Courtroom testimony; and Disciplinary action.