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Science Thursday - March 7, 2013

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Posted: March 7, 2013   11:50 AM

The St. Paul crime lab faces more controversy, two federal agencies release a guidebook for preservation of biological evidence, and forensic experts discuss the limitations of certain forensic techniques in the Austin-American Statesman. Here’s this week’s round up of forensic news:
Though consultants to the troubled St. Paul crime lab have recommended that civilian scientists be hired to run the lab, the St. Paul Police Federation opposes this change, arguing that it clashes with the union’s terms and conditions of employment.
In Washington, D.C., the lab director of a new, independent crime lab faced questions from his critics at his first ever annual oversight hearing.
After several years of meetings, a working group co-sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) will release “The Biological Evidence Preservation Handbook: Best Practices for Evidence Handlers.” It will be a definitive guide for how law enforcement agencies should handle and store biological evidence.
The Ohio Department of Health warned hospitals that some sexual assault evidence kits might be contaminated with DNA by those who assembled the kits. When the provider first started assembling kits, small traces of DNA from handling could not be detected, though advances in DNA technology now make this is possible.
In a recent Austin American-Statesman article, Cliff Spiegelman and William Tobin discuss how certain forensic techniques that might be useful during investigations are problematic in court. These techniques, which include firearm and tool mark analysis and facial reconstruction, involve subjectivity and do not have strong validation studies.

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