Sessions orders Justice Dept. to end forensic science commission, suspend review policy

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/sessions-orders-justice-dept-to-end-forensic-science-commission-suspend-review-policy/2017/04/10/2dada0ca-1c96-11e7-9887-1a5314b56a08_story.html?utm_term=.bbea03b1dbd1Attorney General Jeff Sessions will end a Justice Department partnership with independent scientists to raise forensic science standards and has suspended an expanded review of FBI testimony across several techniques that have come under question, saying a new strategy will be set by an in-house team of law enforcement advisers.

In a statement Monday, Sessions said he would not renew the National Commission on Forensic Science, a roughly 30-member advisory panel of scientists, judges, crime lab leaders, prosecutors and defense lawyers chartered by the Obama administration in 2013.

A path to meet needs of overburdened crime labs will be set by a yet-to-be-named senior forensic adviser and an internal department crime task force, Sessions’s statement said.

The announcement came as the commission began its last, two-day meeting before its term ends April 23, and as some of its most far-reaching final recommendations remained hanging before the department.

Justice officials said, for example, that no decision has been made on a call for new, department-wide standards for examining and reporting forensic evidence in criminal courts across the country. But the department has decided to suspend work on setting uniform standards for forensic testimony.

“The availability of prompt and accurate forensic science analysis to our law enforcement officers and prosecutors is critical to integrity in law enforcement, reducing violent crime, and increasing public safety,” Sessions said in the statement. “We applaud the professionalism of the National Commission on Forensic Science and look forward to building on the contributions it has made in this crucial field.”

The action marked the latest break by Sessions, a former federal prosecutor, with Obama-era priorities. The former senator from Alabama last week announced that top aides will review agreements reached with troubled police forces nationwide to ensure the pacts to overhaul departments do not counter the Trump administration’s goals of combating violent crime and promoting police safety and morale . Read the full article here…