Chris Porter is NPCC Forensic Quality Lead and Director of Forensic Services in the Metropolitan Police.
During my nearly 37 years of service I’ve worked in many areas of forensics, including a long period as a CSI. This was the most enjoyable, fulfilling and rewarding role I’ve undertaken as a practitioner – it also means I really do appreciate the complexities of the role and the challenges of implementing quality standards at crime scenes. It is such a complex and dynamic arena.
I do believe in the value of accreditation. Today’s environment, where policing and forensic science is scrutinised by the government and the media, the reputation of forensics and forces can stand or fall by events.
It’s increasingly important to be able to provide confidence to the criminal justice system and the public that the work we do is validated, reliable, repeatable and that we’ve competent people and systems. This assurance is achieved through accreditation.
The reputation of scene examiners and in fact all those working in forensic science is that we’re neutral independent providers of evidence that supports that truth. We follow the facts, rather than being a prosecution tool. And for the crime scene discipline, being right at the beginning of that process, it’s critical to getting things right first time. We know that all else fails if we don’t do so.
The statutory powers now given to the Forensic Science Regulator, his Codes of Practice and Conduct, the criminal procedure rules, CPIA and accreditation all combine to protect that reputation and ensure that our evidence carries the weight it deserves.
It also professionalises the discipline. The role of practitioners as well as quality experts working in our forces are essential to this. All police forces are finding this challenging in one way or another, but it’s a challenge we must all rise to. The deadline is rapidly approaching.
I’m a great believer in not reinventing the wheel. While it may be that forces do things a little differently, we are all fundamentally doing the same thing. We should look for ways to share knowledge and learning, particularly from those who are further down the journey.
My key message is that this is not an option, it is essential, and now backed by a statutory requirement. We must work together to learn from each other and increase the pace of progress.
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