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.

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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.

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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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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

Report Date

May 2018

Report Summary

The goal of this report is to inform the forensic community about the current landscape of field portable devices and techniques used for presumptive drug testing. This report also contains a discussion of the benefits, limitations, and implementation considerations for various technologies, including mass spectrometry (MS), ion mobility spectrometry (IMS), Raman spectroscopy, infrared spectroscopy (IR), and color-based testing techniques. This report illustrates successful adoption of these technologies in a field setting and identifies up-and-coming technologies that could impact presumptive drug testing in the future.

Click here to read the full report

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 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.