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Five key issues in forensics

As the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) lead for forensics, I work very closely with James Vaughan, the Chief Constable of Dorset Police, who is also the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for forensics.

Between us we deal with many aspects of forensics, and we see both the opportunities available and the pitfall and problems facing the service.

In particular, there are five key issues that collectively, police forensics services and its partners need to address:

  1. Fragility in the marketplace. Issues such as the  backlog caused by a cyber attack on Eurofins, the UK’s biggest forensic services provider, alleged data manipulation at  Randox Testing Services, and the collapse of Key Forensic Services, have highlighted the precarious nature of the forensic market. We need to – and are – doing more to make this market more sustainable and forward looking.
  2. The huge accreditation challenge.  In less than 12 months, more than a hundred different forensic science techniques will need to meet robust ISO/IEC 17025 and ISO/IEC 17020 accreditation requirements. The risk to us all, both operationally and reputationally, of failing to meet our accreditation requirements is immense.
  3. Strength in numbers. A more cohesive landscape will help everyone perform better. The fragmented nature of our current landscape – with different forensic science units all trying to solve similar problems in slightly different ways -  just doesn’t make sense, operationally or financially.
  4. The sheer pace of technological change and increase in demand. The need for forensic science capabilities is rising fast, as the digital footprint associated with crime gets bigger and bigger.
  1. People power. Our workforce needs to meet the demands of today and tomorrow. We have a superb workforce who deserve development, career pathways and modern forensic tools – and we must ensure the next generation have this too.

If we are to build the forensic services that our forces need, it’s vital we work much more closely together nationally.

That’s exactly what the Forensics Capability Network (FCN) is being set up to do, and I’m really excited to see the next step in its journey in the launch of this new website. This, coupled with the next phase of recruitment, is a really positive indicator of how we are bringing our vision for the network to life.

In particular I would encourage you to read the Prospectus, the blueprint for the FCN, which sets out in detail why the network is needed and how it will operate.

The FCN will act as a central hub, curating and sharing scientific expertise, helping design and manage new services, and delivering consistency of quality.

Most importantly, it will belong to forces - its members – leaving Chiefs and PCCs in control of what forensic science activity goes on, but within a community that works together to maximise resources, resilience and effectiveness.