Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
Public Affairs Division – Washington, DC
The Violent Crime Bureau
For Immediate Release
June 7, 2012
Contact: Public Affairs Division
Phone: (202) 648-8500
ATF Laboratories Receive ASCLD/LAB International’s
ISO/IEC 17025 Accreditation
WASHINGTON – The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) today announced that its Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL), with facilities in Maryland, Atlanta and San Francisco; and its Fire Research Laboratory (FRL) have received accreditation through the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board’s (ASCLD/LAB) International Program.
Successful accreditation makes a powerful statement to prosecutors, law enforcement and other professionals that ATF’s laboratory system continues to meet the very highest of standards, said ATF Acting Director B. Todd Jones.
I’m very proud of the world-class work that is performed by our examiners, said H. Richard Holgate, assistant director, Office of Science and Technology, ATF.
This new accreditation by ASCLD/LAB International is another example of the expertise and dedication of our examiners, quality programs and professional staff as well as management’s commitment to a rigorous quality assurance system, said Greg Czarnopys, deputy assistant director, ATF Forensic Services.
During a two-week assessment period, all four ATF laboratories underwent inspections by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electro-technical Commission (IEC), the major organizations that judge professional expertise at testing and calibration laboratories worldwide. In addition to 400 general requirements known as ISO/IEC 17025, ATF’s facilities also were reviewed regarding the ASCLD/LAB’s international supplemental requirements and more than 100 specific quality assurance standards for forensic DNA testing laboratories.
ATF recently received notification that the FSL and FRL had met or exceeded requirements for accreditation in disciplines that include trace evidence (explosives analysis, fire debris analysis, hairs, fibers, paint and tobacco analysis); biology (DNA); questioned documents; firearms/toolmarks; individual characteristic databases such as the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) and the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN); general chemical and physical and chemical analysis; fire scene reconstruction; crime scene investigation; imprint/impression examination and processing; and comparison of latent prints.
ATF laboratories employ some of the country’s most experienced and widely recognized experts in their fields who provide analysis of explosives, fire debris, fire scenes, firearms and toolmarks. Among the more notable cases they have worked are the D.C. serial sniper and arson cases; the Eric Rudolph serial bomber case in Atlanta; a Southwest task force on church fires; an Oregon bank bombing case; and many others.
International accreditation requirements focus on detailed information concerning every aspect of a laboratory’s operations and personnel. Outside forensic experts assess competency of personnel, the laboratory's management system, as well as the quality of technical operations including its quality assurance program. The assessment process includes a review of numerous laboratory examiner case records; a review of annual proficiency testing results and training records of all lab personnel; document control of technical and management system procedural manuals; calibration and maintenance of scientific instruments; service provided to customers; and the quality of final result lab reports. To maintain accreditation, ATF’s laboratories are required to undergo a rigorous on-site inspection every five years with yearly self-assessments and annual surveillance visits by external ATF assessors. The accredits more than 388 forensic laboratories worldwide.
ATF’s laboratories helped pioneer the creation of a national accreditation program for forensic laboratories and, in 1984, became the first federal laboratories to achieve accreditation, which has been renewed every five years through the ATF. The FRL, the nation's only forensic fire research facility dedicated to criminal investigations, received accreditation on its first attempt.
More information on ATF and its programs and resources is available at www.atf.gov.