Crime Lab at Arizona Department of Public Safety Lands Lofty Accreditation as it Seeks State Funding

There's nothing like knowing something is worth an expensive pricetag -- as long as you've got little choice but to pay for it.

Days after a prominent Arizona Republic story about how lawmakers are scrambling to find funds for the cash-poor Arizona Department of Public Safety crime lab, the agency announces its lab has landed a prestigious accreditation (see text of news release below).

The lab has become the first in Arizona and one of just 21 labs nationwide to be accredited by a combined program of the International Standards Organization and American Society of Crime Lab Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board.

What this means is that the quality standards at the crime lab are probably about as good as they could be. Accurate crime lab analyses are obviously crucial to our justice system: When lawyers known lab results may have been compromised, criminals are likely to escape justice. Even more egregiously, errors make it possible for an innocent person to be falsely accused of a crime based on bogus evidence.

As lawmakers in the Republic article explain, the $10 million needed to keep the crime lab open will be paid somehow -- whether it's the state or local jurisdictions doing the paying.

Whoever pays, at least it'll be worth the money. 


Text of DPS release follows:

- For Immediate Release -
Friday, March 6, 2009

Arizona Department of Public Safety Crime Lab Awarded New Accreditation under the International Standards Organization (ISO)

First Crime Lab in Arizona to attain this status and one of 21 such labs nationwide

The Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) Crime Laboratory continues its history of scientific excellence by undergoing the new rigorous ISO (International Standards Organization) Accreditation Program in conjunction with the American Society of Crime Lab Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB).

On March 5, 2009, the DPS Crime Laboratory System and each of its individual regional crime laboratories in Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff and Lake Havasu City were awarded Certificates of Accreditation under the combined ISO Accreditation Program.

The significance of this recognition is vital in that it provides a means by which the public and the Arizona Criminal Justice System can be further assured of the quality of the DPS Crime Laboratory's operations and scientific procedures. Furthermore, under the ISO Accreditation Program, the DPS Crime Laboratory is subjected to independent third- party standards.

ISO is the world's developer and publisher of International Standards. It is a network of National Standards Institutes of 160 countries with a central office in Geneva, Switzerland.

The recently released National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on forensic sciences recommends a number of standards which DPS meets or exceeds, including accreditation, staffing with highly educated scientists, continuing scientific education, peer reviewed forensic science research, etc. Also, the NAS report suggests that forensic science should, for the future, look to ISO accreditation. The Arizona Department of Public Safety has already taken that step.

In 1982, the DPS Crime Laboratory became only the second crime laboratory in the nation to become accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB). DPS has maintained this coveted status for over 25 years. Now the DPS Crime Laboratory System is leading Arizona's crime laboratories into the global arena with the achievement of laboratory accreditation under the ISO.

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