The Kansas City Regional Crime Lab has proved itself as one of the best in the nation after receiving a new breed of accreditation.
The American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors – Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) bestowed their International Accreditation for Forensic Science Testing Laboratories on the Kansas City Lab on Sept. 3. A total of 104 city and county crime laboratories have earned the International Accreditation. Kansas City, however, is just one of seven labs nationwide to get accreditation in eight different disciplines, the most of any city or county lab ASCLD/LAB reviewed, according to their web site’s directory.
“For a local department, it’s a very impressive achievement to earn International Accreditation in all those disciplines,” ASCLD/LAB Executive Director John Neuner said.
The eight disciplines in which Kansas City’s lab earned International Accreditation are drug chemistry, toxicology, trace evidence, biology, firearms toolmarks, latent prints, crime scene and digital multimedia evidence.
The Kansas City Regional Crime Lab was previously accredited under ASCLD/LAB’s Legacy Program, but leaders wanted to take it to the next level. Neuner said the new level of accreditation is more stringent, has more requirements and is harder to achieve. It requires forensic laboratories to conform to standards that are in place for labs around the world, not just those agreed upon by American lab directors, as the old system did.
It took two years of work for the Kansas City Lab to earn the International Accreditation, said Lisa Dowler, the Lab’s Quality Assurance Manager. A group of staff members from every discipline met on a weekly basis to ensure the lab met every single standard. She said the process made them better.
“It makes us look at ourselves and look at our processes and how we can continually improve them,” she said.
She said the new standards are very customer-based, and their customers are several people in the judicial process: detectives, prosecutors, courts, attorneys and whoever gets their reports.
The process also had an impact on everyone at the Lab, from the scientists to the Building Operations and Property and Evidence technicians.
“It affected how we communicate with our customers, how we order supplies, how we check our instruments, word our reports, fix issues when they arise, how we set our goals and manage the laboratory,” she said. “So not only was the scientific staff affected, everyone was, from the Building Operations personnel that clean the labs to the administrative assistants and how they order our supplies for us.”
So why did everyone go to so much work for a piece of paper that grants International Accreditation for the next four years?
Ultimately, it’s to fight crime. When the Crime Lab presents evidence that is all but irrefutable, criminals go to prison and victims get justice.
“It’s a symbol for the people of Kansas City and the courts that a quality system exists within your lab, and you’ve demonstrated you’re following internationally recognized standards,” Neuner said. “It gives greater confidence in the quality of work coming out of the laboratory.”