This report was published in Forensic Science International: Synergy, a journal of peer-reviewed, open-access research on a broad range of forensic science disciplines. Since the start of the journal in 2019, the FSI: Synergy’s aim is to advance and support forensic science while exceeding its expectations for excellence.

Report Date

Forensic Science International: Synergy, Volume 2, 2020, Pages 310-316

Abstract

Vicarious trauma (VT) has been studied in mental health experts for over 30 years due to their engagement with victims of trauma and exposure to details of events, crimes, and tragedies experienced by their patients. Recently, VT studies have been extended to first responders as they also engage with victims on a level which may affect their own wellbeing. First responders involved in the criminal justice system, such as law enforcement personnel, have benefited from these studies as the results have helped drive organizational change. However, other professionals throughout the criminal justice system, such as forensic scientists, have had far fewer studies published, and the awareness of VT they may be experiencing has only recently come to light. While this review is not exhaustive of all literature on VT, it showcases key studies and research gaps that could benefit the forensic science community and associated criminal justice system professionals.

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The Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE) is leading an effort to organize and transfer knowledge and best practices of sexual assault response to the criminal justice community. Whether through webinars, podcast episodes, reports, or conferences, the FTCoE is working to address the systemic challenges that impede the investigation of criminal sexual assaults in the United States.

The organization of education materials for those responding to and investigating criminal sexual assault is a major component of our efforts toward sexual assault response reform. In that respect, the Fact Sheets below were designed to feature webinars and additional resources related to specific topics within the sexual assault response reform movement. Click on the icons to open, download, print, and share these fact sheets with SANEs/SARTs, investigators, first responders, and anyone else who could benefit from having access to this information.

 

 

 

 

Report Date

Published September 2020

Introduction

DNA samples recovered from crime scenes often contain at least two contributors. Complex forensic DNA mixture interpretation can be challenging and requires computational advancements that support its use. Using forensic probabilistic tools to identify a DNA sample’s number of contributors (NOC) is crucial to accurately computing the weight of evidence for a person of interest. Drs. Catherine Grgicak and Desmond Lun at Rutgers University developed and validated a probabilistic system, “NOCIt”, that determines a probability distribution on the NOC given an STR electropherogram. NOCIt incorporates models of peak height (including degradation and differential degradation), forward and reverse stutter, and noise and allelic drop-out—in addition to accounting for the number of alleles, and thus is considered a fully continuous system. Dr. Grgicak and colleagues determined that NOCIt calculates accurate, repeatable, and reliable inferences about the NOC—significantly outperforming manual methods that rely on filtering the signal.

“One could argue that a better approach than opting for the minimum number of contributors to a mixture might be to determine the number of contributors best supported by the data.”

—Jaheida Perez, et al. Croat Med J. 2011; 52: 314–26
The New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME)

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Additional Resources

Fast-track evaluation licenses of NOCIt

2018 NIJ R&D Symposium Series: Forensic Biology webinar

Validation and tutorial of NOCIt for determining the number of contributors

Just DNA mixture interpretation podcast

NIJ and Florida International University

Report Date

April 2019

Impact

“I’m impressed with the potential for replacement wet color tests. The multiplexing capabilities have potential to address the challenges field forensics investigators encounter with non-pure, intermixed drugs as well as unknown powders.” —Dr. Michael Buerger, PhD, Professor of Criminal Justice, Bowling Green State University, and former New Hampshire police officer

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Links

McCord Laboratory

FTCOE Webinar: Paper Microfluidic Devices for Fieldable Forensic Testing

TEDx talk

Technical Note Date

November 2018

Description

A 2009 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Forensic DNA Unit Efficiency Improvement (EIP) Program solicitation provided crime laboratories’ DNA testing services with a funding opportunity to meet the increasingly numerous requests from the criminal justice community. The purpose of the 2009 EIP was to encourage crime laboratories to implement novel ideas and processes that would provide a measurable, significant, and sustainable way to meet the needs of national DNA programs. This article focuses on the final outcomes of an award received by the Palm Beach County Sherriff’s Office (PBSO). The NIJ support of an approved and implemented plan involving interagency cooperation between three jurisdictional law enforcement agencies (LEAs) within Palm Beach County has resulted in the successful and efficient establishment of a centralized biological pre-screening laboratory (BPL) for DNA evidence prior to submission to the county’s forensic laboratory for DNA testing.

Click here to read the full technical note

Report Date

January 2018

Report Summary

The goal of this report is to provide the reader with a basic understanding of alternate light sources (ALS), as well as their use, benefits, and limitations. The information contained herein is derived from current literature and interviews with both users and technology developers, providing a thorough assessment of the considerations that will impact procurement, training, and use of ALS. This report also contains product tables highlighting the variety of ALS devices available for purchase.

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This report was published in RTI Press, a global publisher of peer-reviewed, open-access publications on a broad range of topics. The areas of focus reflect RTI’s multidisciplinary research, our expertise in social and laboratory sciences, and our extensive international activities. Since 2008, the RTI Press has produced more than 100 publications.

Report Date

June 2017

Abstract

The 2017 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Forensic Science Research and Development (R&D) Symposium is intended to promote collaboration and enhance knowledge transfer of NIJ-funded research. The NIJ Forensic Science R&D Program funds both basic or applied R&D projects that will (1) increase the body of knowledge to guide and inform forensic science policy and practice or (2) result in the production of useful materials, devices, systems, or methods that have the potential for forensic application. The intent of this program is to direct the findings of basic scientific research; research and development in broader scientific fields applicable to forensic science; and ongoing forensic science research toward the development of highly discriminating, accurate, reliable, cost-effective, and rapid methods for the identification, analysis, and interpretation of physical evidence for criminal justice purposes.

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About the Authors

Nicole Suzanne McCleary, MS, is the associate director of strategic planning and operations in the Center for Forensic Sciences (CFS) at RTI International.

Gerald LaPorte, MSFS, is a supervisory physical scientist and director of the Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences at the National Institute of Justice.

 

This report was published in RTI Press, a global publisher of peer-reviewed, open-access publications on a broad range of topics. The areas of focus reflect RTI’s multidisciplinary research, our expertise in social and laboratory sciences, and our extensive international activities. Since 2008, the RTI Press has produced more than 100 publications. 

Report Date

July 2016


Report Summary

The 2016 NIJ Research and Development Symposium is intended to promote collaboration and enhance knowledge transfer of NIJ-funded research. The NIJ Research and Development (R&D) Program funds both basic or applied R&D projects that will (1) increase the body of knowledge to guide and inform forensic science policy and practice, or (2) result in the production of useful materials, devices, systems, or methods that have the potential for forensic application. The intent of this program is to direct the findings of basic scientific research; research and development in broader scientific fields applicable to forensic science; and ongoing forensic science research toward the development of highly discriminating, accurate, reliable, cost-effective, and rapid methods for the identification, analysis, and interpretation of physical evidence for criminal justice purposes. NIJ and the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence are committed to improving the practice of forensic science and strengthening its impact through support of R&D, rigorous technology evaluation and adoption, effective knowledge transfer and education, and comprehensive dissemination of best practices and guidelines to agencies dedicated to combating crime.

Click here to read the full report


About the Authors

 

Nicole Suzanne McCleary, MS, is the associate director of strategic planning and operations in the Center for Forensic Sciences (CFS) at RTI International.

Gerald LaPorte, MSFS, is a supervisory physical scientist and director of the Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences at the National Institute of Justice.

 

Overview

The Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE) assisted the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) in hosting the annual NIJ Forensic Science Research and Development (R&D) Symposium on February 14, 2017 at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. The NIJ Forensic Science R&D Symposium is a free and open meeting where attendees learned about NIJ-funded research across a variety of forensic science areas.

 

Conference Proceedings 

RTI Press: 2017 NIJ Forensic Science R&D Symposium

Archived Presentations

Morning Session I: Impression Pattern & Trace Evidence

Presentation Topics:
The Fluid Dynamics of Droplet Impact on Inclined Surfaces with Application to Forensic Blood Spatter Analysis
Illuminating Lifestyles by Metabolomics of Personal Objects
Audio Forensics of Gunshot Sounds
Characterization of Organic Firearms Discharge Residue: Progress and Potential

Morning Session II: Forensic Biology & DNA

Presentation Topics:
► Forensic DNA Phenotyping of Quantitative Pigment in Human Physical Appearance Prediction
► Proteomic Analysis of Menstrual Blood for Forensic Identification
► An Optimized DNA Analysis Workflow for the Sampling, Extraction, and Concentration of DNA Obtained from Archived Latent Fingerprints
► The Enhancement of the Native American CODIS STR Database for use in Forensic Casework

Afternoon Session I: Anthropology and Microbial Forensics

Presentation Topics:
► Measuring Desiccation: A System Using Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis
► Statistical Methods for Combining Multivariate and Categorical Data in Postmortem Interval Estimation
► The Isotopic Taphonomy of Human Hair
► Adult Skeletal Age Estimation: Tackling Long-Standing Problems with a New Approach

Afternoon Session II: Controlled Substances and Toxicology

Presentation Topics:
► Novel Blood Protein Modification Assay for Retrospective Detection of Drug Exposure
► Stability of Synthetic Cathinones in Biological Evidence
► Towards Development of a Mass Spectrometric Database for Rapid Identification of Plant Drugs of Abuse Using Ambient Ionization Mass Spectrometry
► One Pot Methamphetamine Effluent Characterization

Symposium Agenda

Click here to view the symposium agenda.