Long Beach Police Department Crime Lab Receives International Accreditation

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Long Beach Police Department

Long Beach Police Department. Photo by Barbara Holbrook, Everything Long Beach

The Long Beach Police Department is very pleased to announce that on October 16, 2014, the Long Beach Police Department’s crime laboratory achieved accreditation under the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors – Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) – International Program. The five disciplines in which the L.B.P.D.’s crime lab has earned International accreditation are drug chemistry, toxicology, firearms, latent prints, and crime scene. The crime lab was previously accredited under the ASCLD/LAB – Legacy Program; however, the new level of accreditation is more stringent, has more requirements, and is harder to achieve. International accreditation requires forensic laboratories to conform to standards that are in place for labs around the world.

“I’m thankful to Chief McDonnell and our police department, particularly our crime lab employees, for this outstanding achievement. This is another example of using technology to support public safety, and it’s something our entire city can be proud of,” said Mayor Robert Garcia.

The crime laboratory began its preparation and work towards international accreditation in March of 2011. This is a monumental achievement for the L.B.P.D.’s crime lab, who now join the over 332 crime laboratories which are accredited under the International Testing Program, including the Orange County Crime Lab, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Secret Service, Department of Chemistry in Malaysia, Health Sciences Authority in Singapore, New Zealand Institute of ESR, and Walmart, to name a few.

Stated by Police Chief Jim McDonnell, “This achievement is the highest level of accreditation a crime laboratory can attain, and a major milestone. Forensic analysis supports our ability to investigate crimes, and is a vital law enforcement tool. This accomplishment is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our crime lab employees, and demonstrates their commitment to the residents of our community.”

The (ASCLD/LAB) was founded in 1982 and is a leader in crime laboratory accreditation. The organization is the first in the world dedicated to accrediting crime labs. The accreditation process has a multitude of steps and involves the following:

  • Preparation and submission of a detailed application package from the laboratory (providing information about the crime lab’s quality management system)
  • Thorough review of documentation (quality assurance manual, technical procedures, etc.) prior to the on-site assessment
  • Comprehensive on-site evaluation of personnel, facilities, and all aspects of the laboratory’s operations

Accreditation can best be described as a continuous process of quality assurance and improvement. ASCLD/LAB’s accreditation process is an extensive look at the work of a specific lab over a defined period of time. While the goal of the L.B.P.D.’s Crime Lab is to provide the highest quality forensic science services to its customers, there are variables that can affect the outcomes, just as with any scientific endeavor.

Accreditation is part of a laboratory’s quality management program, which also includes proficiency testing of technical personnel, continuing education and training of analysts, customer service focus, performing internal audits, and other programs to help the lab provide more effective overall service.

Ultimately, accreditation is highly valued for ongoing oversight and review of elements that are established to safeguard the integrity, accuracy, and reliability of results produced by crime laboratories. Some of the processes to ensure continued quality in the crime lab operation include:

  • In the ASCLD/LAB-International accreditation program, ASCLD/LAB conducts a program of surveillance visits between full assessments
  • The laboratory must conduct its own annual internal audit and reveal to ASCLD/LAB the results of that internal audit in an Annual Report to ASCLD/LAB (one of several components of the annual report)
  • A robust program of proficiency testing requiring the use of test providers approved by ASCLD/LAB
  • Personnel performing examination and analysis of casework are required to be proficiency tested on a yearly basis for on-going competency
  • Every fourth year, a full reassessment is conducted to retain accreditation
  • All ongoing operations must be carried out in accordance with applicable accreditation requirements. If a laboratory detects a substantive quality issue (which is normal in all working labs), the lab must take appropriate corrective action and disclose the issue and the action taken to address the issue to ASCLD/LAB.
  • Accredited laboratories are required to create and maintain appropriate quality records and technical records
  • Technical records (test data and notes, etc.) must be sufficient to support all reported test results
  • Quality records (such as chain of custody of evidence, instrument maintenance, calibration records, reagent preparation, etc.) must be maintained in accordance with all applicable accreditation requirements.

Achieving international accreditation is one of the most challenging and arduous processes for a crime laboratory. The L.B.P.D’s crime lab has established a robust quality management system, demonstrated the ability to meet the over 400 internationally recognized standards, implemented processes to focus on customer service, and provided data to prove confidence in the quality of work produced.

To view the Long Beach Police Department’s Crime Laboratory accreditation certificate and other accredited laboratories, visit www.ascld-lab.org/accredited-laboratory-index.

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