Forensic Laboratory Needs Technology Working Group (FLN-TWG)
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), in partnership with the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCOE) at RTI International, formed the Forensic Laboratory Needs Technology Working Group (FLN-TWG). The FLN-TWG supports NIJ’s mission to improve knowledge and understanding of the forensic technology needs of federal, state, local, and tribal forensic practitioners and crime laboratories.
Implementation Strategies: Updating Data Collection for Digital Evidence Casework in Project FORESIGHT
Project FORESIGHT is a business-guided self-evaluation of forensic science laboratories across the globe. The participating laboratories represent metropolitan, regional, state, and national agencies. Faculty from the West Virginia University John Chambers College of Business and Economics analyze data from forensic crime laboratories around the world to identify trends across laboratories and analyze individual laboratory performance. The project uses standardized definitions for a laboratory’s functional areas and produces annual metrics to evaluate work processes, linking data on casework, personnel allocation, and financial information to work tasks and functions. Laboratory managers can then assess resource allocations, efficiencies, and value of services, with the goal of measuring a laboratory’s operational data to identify and preserve what works and to change what does not.
Fiscal year 2018 was the first year that more than 30 laboratories reported casework in digital evidence analysis. An inspection of the FORESIGHT data suggests there is a disparity among these laboratories with respect to the types of analyses conducted, with some metropolitan laboratories reporting very high caseloads and relatively low full time equivalent (FTE), whereas other laboratories report relatively low case volumes with much greater FTE per case. Given this disproportion, capturing data using the standard FORESIGHT measures is difficult because digital evidence is measured differently. Casework involving digital evidence can span from simple data extractions or automated processes to more advanced data analysis that requires specific types of forensic tools or training. Indeed, Project FORESIGHT’s measures for casework often fail to capture the distinguishing features of digital evidence analysis, and thus, the collected data must be refined. This now includes digital forensic casework in general.
Funding for this Forensic Technology Center of Excellence report was provided by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.
The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this report are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice.