By Meredith Mays, Legislative Representative, IACP
ecently the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a report on forensics titled Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward. Consisting of more than a dozen recommendations, the report details a comprehensive plan to overhaul the delivery and the use of forensic science in the United States. Significantly, a key recommendation of the NAS report is the removal of crime laboratories and other forensics services from law enforcement agencies. In response to the NAS report, the IACP Executive Committee, working in collaboration with the IACP Forensics Committee, outlined the association’s concerns with the report’s recommendations and highlighted the impact the recommendations could have on state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies.
First and foremost, the IACP strongly opposes the report’s recommendation that crime laboratories and other forensic services should be removed from law enforcement agencies.
Other concerns are as follows:
- The IACP is concerned that the report was developed without input from law enforcement practitioners.
- The IACP strongly believes that all research and other initiatives designed to study and enhance the delivery of forensic sciences must include the participation of law enforcement practitioners.
- The IACP agrees with, and supports, the need for accreditation and certification of forensic science providers but realizes the significance of the costs associated with accreditation and certification efforts. Therefore, the IACP is strongly opposed to proposals that would institute “mandatory” accreditation/certification requirements in the absence of secure, sustainable, and stable federal assistance funding.
- The IACP supports the development—inclusive of federal, state, county, local, and tribal representation—of an entity to establish standards and best practices and to serve as a funding source for forensic science services.
Finally, the IACP is committed to working with stakeholder organizations to develop practical approaches to enhancing the delivery of forensic sciences in the United States and around the world.
Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act Introduced in Senate
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) recently introduced the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (LEOSA) Improvements Act of 2009, S. 1132. The IACP is opposed to this legislation.
S. 1132 would amend the original LEOSA bill, which passed in 2004, by weakening the standards and training requirements an off-duty or retired officer must meet to carry a concealed firearm anywhere in the country. The legislation would lower the qualification requirements for retired officers to carry firearms from 15 years to 10 years.
The IACP opposes the LEOSA Improvements Act because of the association’s belief that states and localities should have the right to determine who is eligible to carry firearms in their communities. This legislation would undercut the ability of state, tribal, and local law enforcement agencies to determine what standards best meet the needs of the departments and the communities they serve.
In addition, the IACP opposes the legislation because it requires only that retired officers be trained in their states or former agencies, not in the states or jurisdictions where they would carry the weapon. As most states and jurisdictions vary on their training requirements, police chiefs who have employed the most rigorous training program, a strict standard of accountability, and stringent policies should not be forced to permit officers who may not meet those standards to carry a concealed weapon in the chiefs’ jurisdictions.
Currently, there are no cosponsors and no companion bill in the House of Representatives.
IACP-Endorsed Legislation Passes House
In late April, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The legislation, which the IACP supports, will allow the federal government to provide technical support to state and local law enforcement agencies investigating hate crimes. In addition, the legislation authorizes the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide grants to state and local law enforcement agencies to cover the costs of investigating and prosecuting hate crimes.
IACP president Russell B. Laine sent a letter of support for the legislation, writing, “[M]ost hate crimes are, and should continue to be, investigated and prosecuted by state, local and tribal authorities.”
There are instances where, as a result of either insufficient resources or a lack of jurisdiction, state, tribal, and local authorities are unable to investigate these crimes properly. In response, the legislation provides the DOJ with jurisdiction in crimes of violence motivated by an individual’s race, color, religion, national origin, disability, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
President Laine continued, “[H]owever, the legislation properly bars the exercise of federal jurisdiction until the DOJ certifies that state authorities have requested that the federal government assume jurisdiction or that they have consulted with state, local, and tribal law enforcement and have determined that local authorities are either unwilling or unable to act.”
The bill is now under consideration in the Senate. ■