Master Category Laboratory Operations
Published August 2020
As a key stakeholder in the criminal justice system, forensic laboratories must track, analyze, and report on evidence related to each request for service they receive. This is no easy task for laboratories: according to a 2014 survey by the Department of Justice, publicly funded crime laboratories received nearly 3.8 million requests for forensic services, with an average of 93,000 requests per laboratory. The high number of caseloads necessitate the use of technology to ensure integrity of evidence is maintained and laboratories are operating efficiently. Laboratory information management system (LIMS) were developed to solve many of these challenges. LIMS is a database management system (DBMS) that collects, creates, and stores all data related to forensic examinations in a crime laboratory. LIMS enables the forensic laboratory to efficiently manage evidence and resources and can be scaled to meet the demands of federal, state, county, and municipal laboratories.
This landscape report provides crime laboratory directors, crime laboratory personnel, law enforcement agencies, and other stakeholders and end users with the following:
– Background information on LIMS and their integration into the laboratory evidence management process
– The product landscape of select commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) LIMS products
– Considerations for implementing or updating internally developed and COTS LIMS
Crime laboratories are expected to provide consistent and high-quality services across multiple domains to criminal justice stakeholders, even though these laboratories may have limited resources and constrained budgets. Operational practices can influence the laboratory’s ability to provide these services efficiently. However, assessing the efficiency of these practices requires the ability to both track performance metrics over time and compare metrics with similar laboratories, which may be resource intensive. Project FORESIGHT is a business-oriented self-evaluation that provides laboratory managers with actionable insights into the performance of their laboratory. These metrics are broken down by investigative area and are based on analysis of a rich set of multiyear data from a growing number of U.S. laboratories. This success story provides an overview of Project FORESIGHT and how it brought value to two early adopter laboratories in the United States: Orange County Crime Laboratory and Denver Police Department, Forensics and Evidence Division.
“Iron sharpens iron. Project FORESIGHT is built on collaboration among peers, and enhanced with academic and economic support—it provides actionable and realistic data to assess how well a lab is performing.”
– Bruce Houlihan, Director, Orange County Crime Laboratory
Click here to read the full Report
|Project Quadrupol: Development of a Benchmarking Model for Forensic Laboratories|
|Project FORESIGHT Annual Report, 2017-2018|
|The Jurisdictional Return on Investment from Processing the
Backlog of Untested Sexual Assault Kits
|The Hidden Costs of the Opioid Crisis and the Implications
for Financial Management in the Public Sector
|2019 National Opioid and Emerging Drug Threats Policy and Practice Forum|
|Forensic Advancement: Just FORESIGHT on Sexual Assault Kits|
|Drugs: Just Opioid Financial Burden on Crime Labs|
|Workforce Calculator Project|
NIJ’s FTCoE and Forensic Laboratory Needs Technology Working Group
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
|ARTICLE: NIJ Supporting Crime Lab Directors and the Formation of the Forensic
Laboratory Needs Technology Working Group, May 29, 2018
|ARTICLE: NIJ Forensic Laboratory Needs Technology Working Group
— Opening a New Channel to Improve Forensics, August 27, 2018
|Department of Justice Priorities, Forensic Science Policies, and Grant Programs|
NIJ’s FTCoE and Center for Forensic Science Research and Education
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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Technical Note Date
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.