Report Date

July 2020

Introduction

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and its Forensic Technology Center of Excellence hosted the National Opioid and Emerging Drug Threats Policy and Practice Forum on July 18–19, 2019, in Washington, DC. The forum explored ways in which government agencies and programs, law enforcement officials, forensic laboratory personnel, medical examiners and coroners, researchers, and other experts can cooperate to respond to problems associated with drug abuse and misuse. Panelists from these stakeholder groups discussed ways to address concerns such as rapidly expanding crime laboratory caseloads; workforce shortages and resiliency programs; analytical challenges associated with fentanyl analogs and drug mixtures; laboratory quality control; surveillance systems to inform response; and policy related to stakeholder, research, and resource constraints. The NIJ Policy and Practice Forum built off the momentum of previous stakeholder meetings convened by NIJ and other agencies to discuss the consequences of this national epidemic, including the impact it has had on public safety, public health, and the criminal justice response. The forum discussed topics at a policy level and addressed best practices used across the forensic community.

Click here to read the full Report 

Click here to view the archived Forum

About the Authors/Editors:

Jeri D. Ropero-Miller, PhD, F-ABFT is the senior director of the Center for Forensic Sciences (CFS) at RTI International and the Project Director for NIJ’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCOE).

Crystal M. Daye, MPA, manages the Investigative Science Program (ISP) at RTI and conducts research on law enforcement operations, forensics, and improving the criminal justice response to victims of crime.

Sarah Norsworthy, MS is a research forensic scientist in RTI’s CFS and serves as a DNA subject matter expert and project manager for the FTCOE.

Paige Presler-Jur, MS is a Research Public Policy Analyst in RTI’s ISP and supports research initiatives addressing health, social, and justice issues in the contexts of substance misuse and abuse community programs, sexual assault case reform, forensics, and multidisciplinary approaches.

Rebecca Shute, MS is an innovation analyst for RTI’s Innovation Advisors and supports the reports development and technology transition activities on behalf of the NIJ’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence.

Hope Smiley-McDonald, PhD, directs the Investigative Sciences program and conducts research on forensic agency operations and needs, drug surveillance, and social and justice issues in the context of substance use.

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

February 2019

Abstract

The 2019 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.

Click here to read the full Report

NIJ’s FTCoE and Forensic Laboratory Needs Technology Working Group

 

Report Date

December 2019

Introduction

Recognizing the many challenges associated with adopting new technologies and other innovations in forensic science organizations, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) formed the Forensic Laboratory Needs Technology Working Group (FLN-TWG) in 2018. FLN-TWG provides a forum for which forensic practitioners and researchers can develop coordinated approaches to addressing technology implementation challenges for the forensic science community.

Housed at NIJ and supported by the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE), FLN-TWG membership is comprised of crime laboratory directors or managers and academic researchers who meet regularly to share ideas, assess the impact of new technologies on the criminal justice system, and identify paths forward for implementation. The group’s mandate encompasses the full range of needs facing federal, state, local, and tribal jurisdictions; FLN-TWG is designed to clear roadblocks that have prevented broad, successful adoption of promising technologies.

This in-brief provides a summary of FLN-TWG’s goals and outputs of the first meeting and provides a list of programs and resources that can promote technology adoption by crime laboratories.

“I’m very pleased to welcome the newly created working group members and grateful for their willingness to take part in this important endeavor. I look forward to hearing their valuable input and working together toward strengthening the relationship between the Justice Department and forensic science practitioners.”

              —David Muhlhausen, NIJ Director

Click here to read the full In-Brief

Resources

 

ARTICLE: NIJ Supporting Crime Lab Directors and the Formation of the Forensic
Laboratory Needs Technology Working Group, May 29, 2018

Read More

ARTICLE: NIJ Forensic Laboratory Needs Technology Working Group
— Opening a New Channel
to Improve Forensics, August 27, 2018

Read More

Department of Justice Priorities, Forensic Science Policies, and Grant Programs

Read More

NIJ’s FTCoE and Center for Forensic Science Research and Education

 

Report Date

September 2019

Introduction

New psychoactive substances (NPS) have always presented a challenge to analytical laboratories tasked with identifying drugs in biological and nonbiological material. The pace at which new compounds appeared on the illicit drug market increased exponentially in the late 2000s, thus magnifying this challenge. Laboratories possess the technical expertise to develop and validate appropriate analytical methods for detecting new compounds; however, many laboratories lack the time and resources needed to keep up with the quickly changing landscape. This guidance document provides laboratories and practitioners with the resources to effectively respond to a dynamic drug market; this information proposes to help identify potential new drug targets, prioritize analytical targets, evaluate the best instrumental techniques for monitoring casework for new drugs, and develop and validate appropriate analytical methods.

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Report Series Date

January 2019

Introduction

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is committed in their efforts to support scientific advancement, evidence-based practices, and community awareness of our Nation’s sexual assault response. As NIJ’s Director, Dr. David B. Muhlhausen, indicated, “our nation’s forensic laboratories have the ability to find and test smaller and smaller amounts of crucial evidence and get quality results for cases that years ago would have been unattainable” [1]. NIJ’s numerous sexual assault response resources, including the National Best Practices for Sexual Assault Kits: A Multidisciplinary Approach, are summarized in this NIJ Director’s Message [1, 2].

Purpose

Sexual assault remains prevalent in the United States, with an average of 300,000 cases reported to law enforcement each year [3]. However, another 600,000 go unreported [4]. The circumstances of and trauma resulting from a sexual assault can pose a challenge to investigators. For example, witnesses are not always present; the impact of trauma or incapacitating substances, such as alcohol, may affect the victim’s ability to recount details of the incident; and frequently, corroborating evidence is limited.

DNA evidence, while valuable, is not always probative or present in every case: many DNA samples do not meet the quality standards required to be uploaded into CODIS (38% of profiles were found to be ineligible as noted from recent NIJ-supported research [5]). Even in cases where a DNA profile is present and is CODIS-eligible, a CODIS hit occurs only about half of the time [5]. Additionally, a DNA profile may provide limited probative value in situations where sexual contact is not disputed. Thus, many types of additional physical evidence play a critical role in the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases.

Physical evidence collection, submission, and analysis can be an effective and necessary means of reconstructing at least some of the events that occurred during a sexual assault. Physical evidence provides value to investigations even if a DNA profile is developed and probative, as it can be used to corroborate and supplement a greater understanding of the circumstance and make a stronger case. This three-part Beyond DNA In-Brief series highlights types of physical evidence that can provide crucial information about a sexual assault, so that key stakeholders in the criminal justice community ultimately obtain just resolutions for these crimes.


Click here to read Beyond DNA: The Role of Physical Evidence in Sexual Assault Investigations

“Based on our findings, jurors were more likely to find a defendant guilty than not guilty even without scientific evidence if the victim or other witnesses testified, except in the case of rape.” —Honorable Donald E. Shelton,The ‘CSI Effect’: Does It Really Exist?, National Institute of Justice (NIJ)


Click here to read Beyond DNA: The Role of Biological Evidence in Sexual Assault Investigations

“Sexual assault evidence should be evaluated holistically. The identification of the type of biological fluid may further substantiate and clarify how events took place.” -Dr. Patricia Melton, RTI International


Click here to read Beyond DNA: The Impact of Toxicological Evidence in Sexual Assault Investigations

“Because of the effects that CNS depressants can have on memory and the subsequent reporting of suspected DFSA by potential victims, the true prevalence of this crime may never be fully realized.” – Marc LeBeau, FBI Laboratory


Resources

The NIJ and the FTCoE provide resources for sexual assault response, including:

• The National Institute of Justice’s National Best Practices for Sexual Assault Practices: A Multidisciplinary Approach  provides 35 recommendations to improve evidence collection and tracking procedures, investigative considerations, communication strategies, and more.

• The Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE) published a comprehensive report  on current knowledge and best practices for sexual assault response teams, including considerations for evidence collection.

• The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative  (SAKI) provides resources on these issues, including insight for cold cases where DNA may not be dispositive.

• The NIJ introduces the value of physical evidence in Sexual Assault Cases: Exploring the Importance of Non-DNA Forensic Evidence. The NIJ has also published a variety of resources around sexual assault response 

• The FTCoE has collaborated with the Center for Nursing Excellence (CFNEI) to develop an online sexual violence glossary  to standardize language amongst medical, law enforcement, and legal professionals.

Additional Resources

1. Muhlhausen D.B. (2018, April). Director’s Corner: Responding to Sexual Assaults. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice. Retrieved from
https://www.nij.gov/about/director/Pages/muhlhausen-responding-to-sexual-assault.aspx .
2. National Institute of Justice. (2017, August 8, 2017). National Best Practices for Sexual Assault Kits: A Multidisciplinary Approach. NCJ 250384. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice. Retrieved from: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/250384.pdf .
3. Morgan, R. E., & Kena, G. (2017, December). Criminal victimization, 2016. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cv16.pdf  
4. Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. (2018). The criminal justice system: Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.rainn.org/statistics/criminal-justice-system 
5. Waltke, H., LaPorte, G., Weiss, D., Schwarting, D., Nguyen, M., & Scott, F. (2017). Sexual Assault Cases: Exploring the Importance of Non-DNA Forensic Evidence. National Institute of Justice Journal, 279.

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

April 2018

Abstract

The 2018 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.

Click here to read the full report

About the Editor

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

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.

Read 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.

 

This article was published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology and authored by Barry K. Logan, Amanda L.A. Mohr, Melissa Friscia, Alex J. Krotulski, Donna M. Papsun, Sherri L. Kacinko, Jeri D. Ropero-Miller, Marilyn A. Huestis. This work was developed, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement from the National Institute of Justice (2011-DN-BX-K564), Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice by the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence at RTI International. Opinions or points of view expressed herein represent a consensus of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Article Date

April 2017


Article Summary

Novel psychoactive substances (NPS) represent significant analytical and interpretive challenges to forensic and clinical toxicologists. Timely access to case reports and reports of adverse incidents of impairment or toxicity is imperative to clinical diagnosis and treatment, as well as to interpretation of forensic results. Delays in identifying the presence of a novel intoxicating agent have significant consequences for public health and public safety. Adverse effects of intoxications with novel cannabinoids, stimulants, hallucinogens, benzodiazepines and opioids spanning January 2013 through December 2016 as reported in emergency departments, death investigations, impaired driving cases and other forensic contexts are the subject of this review. Discussion of the chemistry, pharmacology and adverse events associated with novel drug classes is summarized and described within. Adverse effects or symptoms associated with ingestion of more than 45 NPS have been abstracted and summarized in tables, including demographics, case history, clinical or behavioral symptoms, autopsy findings and drug confirmations with quantitative results when provided. Based on these findings and gaps in the available data, we provide recommendations for future toxicological testing of these evolving substances. These include development and management of a national monitoring program to provide real-time clinical and toxicological data, confirmed analytically, on emerging drugs and their known toxidromes and side effect profiles. Increased efforts should be made to analytically confirm the agents responsible for clinical intoxications involving adverse events in emergency department admissions or hospitalizations. Evidence-based community preparedness among analytical laboratories gained through active communication and sharing of toxicological findings and trends in NPS is imperative to assist in enabling early detection of new drugs in forensic and clinical populations.

Click here to read the full article

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.