The American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) International recently accredited the Northwest Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory (NWRCFL) in digital and multimedia evidence. According to ASCLD/LAB, 308 laboratories in the nation hold ASCLD/LAB international accreditation. With the NWRCFL’s accomplishment, 13 out of 16 operational RCFLs have earned accreditation from ASCLD/LAB, legacy and international combined.
Accreditation by ASCLD/LAB is recognized by the criminal justice system as a means of determining that a laboratory has met a set of internationally recognized standards of operation for forensic laboratories, according to the ASCLD/LAB’s website. Accreditation provides that essential, external, independent review. ASCLD/LAB’s accreditation standards evolve and its criteria reflect the constantly changing nature of technology, thus the transition from legacy to international.
John Neuner, executive director of ASCLD/LAB, said: “The Northwest RCFL’s achievement of ASCLD/LAB international accreditation with zero findings is quite rare, as approximately two percent of labs have received no findings.” Further, the NWRCFL has held ASCLD/LAB legacy accreditation since 2008.
The NWRCFL opened in 2005 and is part of the FBI’s RCFL program, a national network of 16 digital forensics laboratories and training centers devoted entirely to the scientific examination of digital evidence in support of criminal investigations. The NWRCFL provides services in Oregon and eastern Washington and is managed by a coalition of federal, state, and local law enforcement organizations, including the FBI through its Portland Division and FBI Headquarters; Oregon State Police; Hillsboro Police Department; Portland Police Bureau; Beaverton Police Department; Multnomah County Dept. of Community Justice; Washington County Sheriff’s Office; Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office; and the Canby Police Department. RCFL personnel are FBI-certified as computer forensics examiners and must strictly adhere to standardized operating procedures and institutionalized peer review measures to provide consistent, accurate, repeatable, and verifiable results.
The RCFL program, which is funded and administered by the FBI, supports the Bureau’s criminal investigative and intelligence-gathering efforts by supplying a wide range of sophisticated technological equipment, examination tools and capabilities, training, and specialized experience.
FBI Executive Assistant Director Amy Hess said: “Digital devices and information are pervasive in our society and play a frequent role in our investigations. It’s important that law enforcement has the tools necessary to examine electronic evidence, such as data on cameras, laptops, and smart phones, to effectively serve the public to further the cause of justice. The FBI is proud of the RCFL program and the services member labs and personnel provide to our law enforcement partners.”
According to ASCLD/LAB’s website, accreditation is part of a laboratory’s quality assurance program, which should also include proficiency testing, continuing education, customer liaison, and other programs to help the laboratory provide more effective overall service. The accreditation process is an intensive assessment that evaluates the qualifications of all laboratory personnel; the laboratory’s operational and technical policies, practices, and procedures; and the laboratory’s quality management system.