Forensic Science

Program Description

About the Program

Conference of Western Attorneys General, Forensic Science Training and Technical Assistance Program

In the fall of 2009, the Conference of Western Attorneys General Alliance Partnership 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 Alliance Partnership 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 CWAG 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 CWAG Alliance Partnership 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 CWAG Alliance Partnership 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 Alliance Partnership, 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

Susan Lustig

Administrative Director

Lance Gima

Project Director, Forensics Program

Lauren Niehaus

Director, Program Coordination, CWAG Alliance Partnership