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OSAC Registry Implementer: Kentucky State Police Forensic Laboratories

OSAC implementer

The Seized Drugs section of the Kentucky State Police (KSP) Forensic Laboratories has committed to implementing all OSAC Registry standards related to seized drugs and has created a process to review and evaluate, on an annual basis, the OSAC Registry standards that have been published within the prior year to determine how they can be incorporated into the laboratory’s policy and procedures.

Jeremy Triplett, Laboratory Manger of the Kentucky State Police Central Forensic Laboratory in Frankfort, past president of ASCLD, and former chair of the OSAC Forensic Science Standards Board, wrote the following article about the KSP's implementation journey. This article was originally published in the ASCLD Crime Lab Minute newsletter (October 19, 2020 and October 26, 2020 editions). 

Discipline-level Implementation of OSAC Standards

Written by Jeremy Triplett, Kentucky State Police Forensic Laboratories

Since its official inception in 2014, the NIST Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science has advanced the mission of strengthening forensic practice by facilitating the development of technically sound, science-based standards through a formal standard developing organization (SDO) process, by evaluating existing standards published by SDOs for placement onto the OSAC Registry, and by promoting the use of the OSAC Registry approved standards throughout the forensic science community.

As an initial member of the Forensic Science Standards Board, I witnessed first-hand the dedication and enormity of work devoted to the OSAC mission by the more than 550 forensic science practitioners and experts from all levels of government, academia, and industry. I was, and continue to be, so proud of the countless hours of effort that our forensic science practitioners put into the OSAC process.

We knew at the outset of OSAC that it would take a while to get the “plane off the ground” (or the “boat from the harbor,” as OSAC is particularly fond of naval analogies). After all, the standards development process is a tedious and laborious one. As OSAC nears the end of its 6th year of operations, though, we are seeing the fruits of several years of labor by our community. At present, there are 37 standards on the OSAC Registry with hundreds more in the development process. Each one of these standards represents hundreds of hours of work by dedicated professionals in our community.

With the list of OSAC approved standards growing, the community has rightfully turned its attention to the implementation of these standards into the quality systems of forensic laboratories. Admittedly, however, the idea of committing up-front to implementing an ever-evolving list of standards seems daunting, and it’s reasonable to wonder where to even begin. One simple, effective alternative to a wholesale, system-wide overhaul is to implement OSAC standards on a discipline level in a measured, phased-in approach. This is the method the Kentucky State Police Forensic Laboratories has chosen to use, beginning with seized drugs.

The Kentucky State Police Forensic Laboratories is an ISO 17025 accredited laboratory system and in 2015 the Seized Drugs section committed to implementing all seized drugs related standards approved for the OSAC Registry. To do this, we use a mix of proactive and reactive approaches.

ISO/IEC 17025:2017, states: The laboratory shall use appropriate methods and procedures for all laboratory activities and, where appropriate, for evaluation of the measurement uncertainty as well as statistical techniques for analysis of data.

The KSP Lab’s Seized Drugs section indicates its intent and method for compliance with this clause by stating the following in the KSP Laboratory’s Seized Drugs Quality Manual: The Kentucky State Police Seized Drugs section adheres to standards and guidelines from the Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science (OSAC) and recommendations by the Scientific Working Group for the Analysis of Seized Drugs (SWGDRUG) in formulating its testing methods and procedures. During the annual review of seized drugs documents, OSAC and SWGDRUG standards, guidelines, and recommendations that have been published within the prior year will be evaluated for incorporation into the laboratory’s policies and procedures.

By including this language, the Seized Drugs section has committed to implementing OSAC approved standards while creating a process of measured implementation that gives the section time to evaluate the best method to comply with newly published standards, implement necessary changes in advance, and train analysts on the new requirements. The Technical Leader of the Seized Drugs section is responsible for evaluating OSAC approved standards published within the last year in an annual document review task and incorporating those standards in a new revision of the relevant protocols/procedures. In this way, no approved standard will go any longer than a year before adoption and the section has some preparatory time to ensure implementation is adequate and effective. To date, this has admittedly been a simple task as the number of newly approved standards has not strained our ability to implement them. We believe that having the foundation in place, however, prepares us for rapid implementation as more standards are approved.

The OSAC Quality Task Group has created a “How-to Guide” to help quality managers, senior management and technical leaders with step by step tips for implementing standards in their laboratories and language to add to their methods manuals and quality assurance manuals. The “How-to Guide” for standards implementation is posted on the OSAC website.

The OSAC organization is providing valuable benefits to the forensic science community and is making steady progress toward its goal populating a robust and scientifically sound Registry of approved standards for incorporation into the day-to-day work in forensic science laboratories. As our employees and colleagues devote hundreds of hours to this goal, it’s important to the entire criminal justice system that we find effective ways to implement the results of their efforts. One way to begin implementing OSAC approved standards is with a measured, discipline-level approach. Using this approach, laboratories can make incremental progress toward the goal of whole-lab adoption and section-level employees are empowered to own the process in achieving that goal.

If you have questions about KSP’s OSAC implementation process or would like further information, you may contact Jeremy at jeremy.triplett [at] (jeremy[dot]triplett[at]ky[dot]gov).

Created October 28, 2020