Forensic Science

Information Center

Program Description

About the Program

Attorney General Alliance Forensic Science Training and Technical Assistance Program

In the fall of 2009, the Attorney General Alliance added a Forensic Science Training and Technical Assistance program to its existing collaborations with law enforcement in Mexico. The program allows for a comprehensive approach to the training and technical assistance provided to the Attorney General Alliance forensic partners in Mexico. This multi-year program made training available in the traditional classroom settings, at training institutes that can set up crime scene simulations, training using distant learning technologies, and train the trainer courses utilizing USA University facilities. Along with formal training, access to forensic science information was made available through a new addition to the AGA web page called the Forensic Science Information Center. In addition to training and access to forensic science information, technical assistance has been provided on an individual laboratory basis. Facility design, forensic science program (such as CODIS and Missing Persons DNA programs) consultations, evidence handling recommendations and accreditation preparation are areas where this program has provided assistance.

Combining Efforts to Identify the Missing: A United States/Mexico DNA Project

Beginning in the fall of 2013, the AGA has entered into a Cooperative Agreement with the US Department of Justice National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to analyze family reference and unidentified remains samples from Mexico, with the goal of matching unidentified remains to the families of missing persons in both countries.

Mexican states that have a high rate of migration into the U.S. will submit family reference samples and unidentified remains cases to qualified laboratories in the U.S. The resultant DNA profiles will be entered into CODIS 7.0. The Mexican states participating in this project are: Chihuahua, Baja California, Guanajuato, Sonora and Coahuila. Additional information will become available as this project advances in the coming months.

Past Training Classes

In order to have the forensic science training and technical assistance program more closely meet the needs of the Mexican Forensic Scientists, input from Mexican Attorneys General and Laboratory Directors was solicited at the AGA Meeting held in August of 2009 and at a Laboratory Directors Meeting held in Merida Mexico in November of 2009.

The first training class developed was for Mexican Laboratory Directors and was held in Napa California in early 2010. Topics such as laboratory design, chain of custody, accreditation, and the USA legal system were included in this class. Class participants also visited three laboratories in Northern California where they could see how US Forensic Science Laboratories are designed to meet evidence handling, accreditation, and other operational requirements.

Discipline specific training classes were offered through this program, including: Crime Scene Investigation, DNA Statistics, Forensic Anthropology classes, fingerprint detection and comparison, questioned document examination, bullet trajectory determination, clandestine laboratory investigation, and court testimony classes have been offered.

Technical Assistance

DNA data bases—Through the Attorney General Alliance, assistance can be made available to Mexico in implementing their DNA data base or CODIS Program. Assistance in implementing sample collection programs, high volume sample analysis, search tool development, and reporting procedures can be offered.

Missing Persons DNA Program—Assistance can also be provided to Mexico in coordinating the efforts that several States in Mexico as well as the Federal Government have already begun, to identify missing Mexican citizens (both alive and deceased). Assistance in implementing family sample collection programs, data base development, sample analysis strategies, and kinship calculation training can be offered.

Facility Design—Through visits to individual laboratories in Mexico, assistance can be given in the design or remodel of their crime laboratory facilities. Facility design is critical when ensuring that issues surrounding evidence security, evidence flow, contamination avoidance, and analysis requirements are addressed. In addition to design recommendations, equipment and analytical instrumentation recommendations can be offered.

Accreditation—Through the Alliance Partnership, assistance can be made available to the state laboratories in Mexico to prepare for accreditation. Examples of technical procedures, quality control procedures and quality manuals can be made available.

CWAG Executives

Karen White
Executive Director Biography
Susan Lustig
Administrative Director Biography
Lance Gima
Project Director, Forensics Program Biography
Lauren Niehaus
Deputy Director Biography

Current News and Events

Mexico Forensic Science Committee Summaries/Reports

National Committee of Ballistics Specialists Report

Click here to download

Laboratory Directors Course recommended follow-ups

Click here to download


None at this time

Forensic Science Info/Resources

Published Forensic Science Manuals, Handbooks, Reports and Standards

European Network of Forensic Science Institutes
DNA Data Base Management Review and Recommendations
Click here to download

Federal Bureau of Investigation
Quality Assurance Standards for DNA Databasing Laboratories
Click here to download

Federal Bureau of Investigation
Quality Assurance Standards for Forensic DNA Testing Laboratories
Click here to download

National Institute of Justice
Crime Scene Investigation: A Guide for Law Enforcement
Click here to download

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Crime Scene and Physical Evidence Awareness for non Forensic Personnel
Click here to download

Forensic Science Journal Articles

Estimating minimum allele frequencies for DNA profile frequency estimates for PCR-based loci
B. Budowle, K. L. Monson, and R. Chakraborty
ABC del Nuevo Sistema de Justicia Penal en Mexico, SETEC

Evaluation of Standard Error and Confidence Interval of Estimated Multilocus Genotype Probabilities, and their Implications in DNA Forensics
Ranajit Chakraborty, M. R. Srinivasan, and Stephen P. Daiger
ABC del Nuevo Sistema de Justicia Penal en Mexico, SETEC

Crime Scene Investigation

Crime Scene Diagramming
Download PowerPoint document

Introduction to Bloodstain Pattern Recognition
Download PowerPoint document

Introduction to Incident Scene Photography
Download PowerPoint document

Crime Scene Photography Composition
Download PowerPoint document

Trajectory Analysis
Download PowerPoint document

Forensic Science Laboratory Design

Justice Information Center/ASCLD Handbook for Facility Planning, Design, Construction and Moving
Download PDF document

Forensic Focus

Forensic Magazine

Lab Design News

Forensic Science Laboratory Design PowerPoint
by James Aguilar
Download PowerPoint document

Chain of Custody

Chain of Custody PowerPoint
by Lance Gima
Download PowerPoint document

Court Testimony

The US Legal System and Court Testimony PowerPoint
by Michael Chamberlain
Download PowerPoint document

DNA Criminalist and Court Appearance PowerPoint
by Meg Aceves
Download PowerPoint document

USA Forensic Science Professional Organizations

Association of Firearms and Toolmark Examiners

Association of Firearms and Toolmark Examiners Journal

International Association for Identification

Southwestern Association of Forensic Document Examiners

American Board of Forensic Document Examiners

American Society of Questioned Document Examiners

International Board of Forensic Toxicologists

American Board of Forensic Toxicologists

International Criminal Investigative Training and Assistance Program

USA Forensic Science Agencies

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives

Drug Enforcement Agency

United State Department of Justice

Immigration Customs and Enforcement

US Customs Laboratory


Entidad Mexicana Acreditacion

American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Lab Accreditation Board

American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Lab Accreditation Board PowerPoint
by John Nuener
Download PowerPoint document

Forensic Quality Services

American Board of Criminalists

Laboratory Manuals, Procedures, checklists, etc

CA DOJ AmpFlSTR Identifiler Amplification Using TC 9700
Download Word document

CA DOJ AmpFlSTR Identifiler Enhanced Amplification Using TC 9700
Download Word document


DNA Information


CODIS (Combined DNA Index System)


NIBIN (National Integrated Ballistics Network)

Missing Persons

USA Missing Persons Data base

Missing Persons Resource Center

Missing Persons Resource Center

For many years, Mexican nationals trying to find work in the US died in their efforts to illegally cross the border. Human remains found in the Southern US states are likely to be the family member never heard from again by their relatives in Mexico. Statistics reported by the Washington Office of Latin American cited 463 migrant deaths in the US in 2012. In Arizona alone, from October 2012 to August 2013, 171 migrant deaths were reported. In a report from the National Criminal Justice Resource Center (Report 219533) it states that between 1980 and 2004, approximately 10,300 unidentified remains were reported and over three quarters of this number were reported by 5 states, Arizona, California, Florida, New York, and Texas. Reports such as these only begins to the define the problem faced by coroners and offices in the US who are mandated to identify bodies found in their jurisdictions and the grief carried by Mexican families who don’t know the fate of their loved one.

In the United States, many public and private organizations are doing what they can to address the problem of identifying the thousands of human remains found, but these efforts are not well coordinated. However, through informational data base systems such as the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System or NamUs and the FBI’s Combined DNA Index there is some “sharing” of information that may assist in the identification effort. Unfortunately, without better coordination between these various efforts, the data bases as they exist now will not provide what is needed to help identify the missing.

In the early 1990’s state CODIS laboratories in the US began reporting “matches” of crime scene profiles to DNA profiles in their offender data bases. Soon after the National DNA Data Base become operational in 1998, state to state “matches” were reported and the number of matches increased steadily as the size of the national data base grew. The success of today’s National DNA Index System (NDIS) is due to the diligence of each CODIS state to collect and analyze all offender samples allowed under their state’s laws, to analyze as many crime scene samples as possible, and upload these profiles to NDIS. To fully address the backlog of unidentified human remains cases in the US and to assist US families finding answers about their missing family member, the CODIS missing persons index must include DNA profiles from Mexican families and human remains recovered in Mexico.

In October of 2013, CWAG was awarded a grant from the National Institute of Justice to employ DNA to help identify the missing. This grant funds the collection, analysis, and upload into CODIS, DNA profiles obtained from samples of families in Mexico reporting their relative missing in the US. Additionally, this grant also funds the analysis and upload into CODIS, DNA profiles of human remains found in Mexico and funds the entry of case information into NamUs. Although the number of samples funded by this grant is relatively small, it follows the principle of sharing information that may assist our neighbors in Mexico as well as our own citizens.

Through public and private sector partnerships, the CWAG Alliance Partnership seeks to maximize exposure to the vast Missing Persons resources available to law enforcement and families of the missing.

Missing Persons Resource Partners

As an organization comprised of chief law enforcement officers, CWAG is passionate about forming partnerships that will further multi-faceted goals such as this. Partners in the CWAG effort to identify the missing using DNA technology share this same vision and CWAG is proud to be working alongside such organizations in the grand undertaking of identifying the missing.

Bode Technology

Bode Technology is a leader in providing forensic DNA analysis to governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and disaster management organizations throughout the United States and around the world. Operating one of the most internationally respected private DNA laboratories, Bode’s forensic DNA experts have assisted in identifying victims of war, terrorism, airline crashes, crime, civil conflicts, and natural disasters, including the attack on the World Trade Center, Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 tsunami in Thailand, the war in Bosnia, and the Latin American Initiative for the Identification of the Disappeared. Through these efforts, Bode has optimized protocols for the successful extraction and amplification of DNA from highly degraded and environmentally challenged samples. Our experience in working with more than 30,000 skeletal samples from more than a dozen nations and hundreds of burial sights has led to the development and improvement of multiple DNA extraction, purification, and amplification protocols which can be used to obtain superior results. Bode is currently assisting several nations in large-scale human identification and missing persons projects including the Conference of Western Attorneys General’s “Combining Efforts to Identify the Missing: A United States/Mexico Project” funded by the National Institute of Justice. Bode holds ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation from ASCLD/LAB-International and ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board/FQS.

California Department of Justice

The Attorney General represents the People of California in civil and criminal matters before trial courts, appellate courts and the supreme courts of California and the United States. The Attorney General also serves as legal counsel to state officers and, with few exceptions, to state agencies, boards and commissions. Exceptions to the centralized legal work done on behalf of the state are listed in Section 11041 of the Government Code.

The Bureau of Forensic Services (BFS) is the scientific arm of the Attorney General’s Office whose mission is to assist the criminal justice system. Forensic scientists collect, analyze, and compare physical evidence from crime scenes or persons. They also provide criminalistics, blood alcohol, and related forensic science information services to state and local law enforcement agencies, district attorneys, and the courts.


DNA-PROKIDS is an international project aimed at fighting against traffic in human beings using genetic identification of victims and their families, especially children.

Mission of DNA-PROKIDS is to “identify the victims and return them to their families (reunification); to hamper traffic in human beings thanks to identification of victims, and to gather information on the origins, the routes and the means of this crime (intelligence), key elements for the work of police forces and judicial systems.”

Federal Bureau of Investigation/CODIS

“CODIS is the acronym for the “Combined DNA Index System” and is the generic term used to describe the FBI’s program of support for criminal justice DNA databases as well as the software used to run these databases. The National DNA Index System or NDIS is considered one part of CODIS, the national level, containing the DNA profiles contributed by federal, state, and local participating forensic laboratories.”

International Committee of the Red Cross

“The ICRC, established in 1863, works worldwide to provide humanitarian help of people affected by conflict and armed violence ant to promote the laws that protect victims of war. An independent and neutral organization, its mandate stems essentially from the Geneva Convents of 1949. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, it employs some 12,000 people in 80 countries; it is financed mainly by voluntary donations from governments and from National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.”

Forensic Science Activities: “When people die during wars or disasters, or while migrating, their bodies must be handled respectfully and with dignity; and the remains of unknown individuals must be searched for, recovered and identified. Humanitarian work has come to include these tasks, for which forensic science offere matchless tools and expertise.”

International Committee on Missing Persons

“The International Commission on Missing Persons was established at the initiative of U.S. President Clinton in 1996 at the G-7 Summit in Lyon, France. Its primary role is to ensure the cooperation of governments in locating and identifying those who have disappeared during armed conflict or as a result of human rights violations. ICMP also supports the work of other organizations, encourages public involvement in its activities and contributes to the development of appropriate expressions of commemoration and tribute to the missing.

Since November 2001, ICMP has led the way in using DNA as a first step in the identification of large numbers of persons missing from armed conflict. ICMP has developed a database of over 90,000 relatives of 29,500 missing people, and more than 54,000 bone samples taken from mortal remains exhumed from clandestine graves in the countries of former Yugoslavia. By matching DNA from blood and bone samples, ICMP has been able to identify over 17,000 people who were missing from the conflicts and whose mortal remains were found in hidden graves.”

NamUs Resources

The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) was established as a centralized resource in response to the needs of criminal justice agencies, medical examiners, coroners and families to link missing person and unidentified person cases across multiple jurisdictions. NamUs has proven time and again to be a catalyst for facilitating cooperation between families and agencies in their quest for resolution. As NamUs matured and responded to the needs of agencies and families, forensic service offerings and coordination — anthropology, odontology, and analytical research — have increase and proven to be a cost savings investigative asset for communities. NamUs is honored to lend its knowledge and resources in support the Conference of Western Attorney Generals’ “Combining Efforts to Identify the Missing: A United States / Mexico Project” — a National Institute of Justice funded project.
George W. Adams
National Director, NamUs

National Institute of Justice

Mission: “The National Institute of Justice — the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice — is dedicated to improving knowledge and understanding of crime and justice issues through science. NIJ provides objective and independent knowledge and tools to reduce crime and promote justice, particularly at the state and local levels.”

The Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team

“The Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (Equipo Argentino de Anthropologia Forense, EEAF) is a non profit non-governmental scientific organization based in Buenos Aires, with small offices in New York and Cordoba, and representations in Rosario, Tucaman, Mexico and South Africa. The Team was founded in 1984 in response to the need to investigate the disappearances of at least 9,000 people by the military regime that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983. Through the application of forensic sciences-mainly forensic anthropology, archaeology and genetics-and in collaboration with victim’s relatives and investigative bodies, EEAF aims to shed light on human rights violations, contributing to the search for truth, justice, reparation, and prevention of future abuses.”

Washington Office on Latin America

“Promoting Human Rights, Democracy, and Social Justice”

Project in Mexico: “WOLA monitors the security situation along the U.S.-Mexico border, overseeing the U.S. security presence and exposing the border buildup’s often unseen consequences and costs. We work to increase awarenss and dangerous U.S. deportation practices, the large number of migrants who die in the desert, and the challenges faced by local and state authorities in the identification and preservation of remains. We propose policy alternatives that will protect migrants’ rights, prevent deaths, and ensure that efforts to enhance border security are measured against the reality of the situation on the ground. At the same time, WOLA works to help address cross-border gun trafficking that fuels drug-related violence in Mexico.”