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The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Crime Laboratory has something no other North Carolina crime lab has.
The department has met the standards for international accreditation. Only 250 labs in the world have international accreditation.
Matthew Mathis, CMPD's Crime Lab Director, says "accreditation assures the criminal justice system and public that the crime lab is meeting the highest established standards for forensic laboratory. It ensures the quality of testing meets international standards".
Mathis says the accreditation process is lengthy. "In order to achieve this accreditation, we had to meet the highest standards in our current management systems, our technical procedures, and the quality of our testing", he says.
CMPD's crime lab tests evidence in approximately 12,000 cases each year.
Mathis says "we test everything from DNA, to control substances - illegal drugs, we test blood in dwi cases, we test firearms, fired evidence, latent prints and questioned documents".
There are certain standards or accreditation crime labs must meet for evidence handling, lab security, evidence security, and the qualifications of analysts.
Mathis says international accreditation elevates those standards, and puts additional focus on the technical aspects of testing methods and lab processes. He says this is there a push in forensic testing to make sure labs are scientifically sound and validated.
"I'm proud of our section, proud of the hard work analysts have put in to meeting this standard. This achievement is great for the lab, great for the department", says Mathis.
CMPD released the following statement to WBTV about the award:
On October 4, 2012, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department Crime Laboratory was awarded accreditation by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) under the International Testing program. The ASCLD/LAB-International accreditation program is based on internationally recognized guidelines for testing laboratories (ISO 17025) and supplemented by requirements specific to forensic laboratories.
In order to achieve accreditation under the ASCLD/LAB-International program, the CMPD Crime Lab had to demonstrate that it met or exceeded the highest established standards for forensic laboratories, including the ISO/IEC 17025:2005 "General Requirements for the Competence of Testing and Calibration Laboratories", the ASCLD/LAB Supplemental Requirements for Testing Laboratories and the FBI's Quality Assurance Standards for Forensic DNA Testing Laboratories.
The lengthy accreditation process involved a thorough evaluation of the laboratory's entire management system, technical procedures and practices, personnel qualifications, quality assurance program and facilities. The process included a comprehensive on-site assessment by a team of ASCLD/LAB assessors in which every aspect of the laboratory's operation was carefully reviewed.
By achieving this milestone, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department Crime Lab becomes the first public laboratory in North Carolina to attain accreditation under the ISO17025 based ASCLD/LAB-International program. The CMPD Crime Lab joins approximately 250 other local, state, federal and international laboratories who have achieved this level of accreditation.
This achievement is the result of years of preparation developing a quality program worthy of the world class accreditation. Participation in the internationally recognized ISO 17025 accreditation program for forensic laboratories demonstrates the CMPD Crime Lab's commitment to providing the highest quality of forensic services to the citizens of the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County and to the criminal justice system. The CMPD Crime Lab has been accredited since 2002 by ASCLD/LAB, previously under the Legacy Program requirements.
The CMPD Crime Lab performs forensic testing in the areas of serology/DNA, illicit drug identification, blood alcohol analysis, firearm and fired evidence examinations, latent fingerprint processing and comparisons, fire debris analysis and questioned document examinations. The laboratory processes evidence in over 11,000 cases each year.
The American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) is the oldest and most well-known crime/forensic laboratory accrediting body in the world. ASCLD/LAB has been accrediting crime laboratories since 1982 and currently accredits most of the federal, state and local crime laboratories in the United States plus forensic laboratories in six countries outside of the United States.
ISO (International Organization for Standardization) is the world's largest developer of voluntary International Standards, having published over 19,000 standards covering almost all aspects of technology and manufacturing. ISO standards are developed by groups of experts from all over the world. ISO/IEC 17025 is the main standard used by testing and calibration laboratories.
The Forensic Sciences Act of 2011 passed by the North Carolina legislature requires forensic analyses to be performed in a laboratory that is accredited by an accrediting body that requires conformance to forensic specific requirements and which is a signatory to the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) Mutual Recognition Arrangement For Testing. Accreditation in the ASCLD/LAB-International program satisfies this requirement. ASCLD/LAB is a signatory to the ILAC Mutual Recognition Arrangement.