The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) through the Paul Coverdell National Forensic Sciences Improvement Act (NFSIA) provides funds to states in a formula grant program. Funds received through the NFSIA are to be used to improve the quality, timeliness, and credibility of forensic science services for criminal justice purposes. NIJ requires certification that the State has an established forensic science laboratory or laboratory system that is accredited by an appropriate certifying body or will use a portion of the grant to prepare and apply for such accreditation within 2 years after the grant is awarded.
Rhode Island uses its Coverdell funding to support an accreditation readiness program. Rhode Island laboratories began the accreditation process with the 2002 Coverdell award. The exercise required that the State Crime Laboratory at the University of Rhode Island and the State Forensic Science Laboratory at the Department of Health meet or exceed the required forensic laboratory standards that have been identified by international accreditation standards (ISO/IEC 17025). Effective April 9, 2007, the State Crime Laboratory was assessed and found to comply with the requirements of ISO/IEC 17025:2005 and accrediting body supplemental forensic requirements for accreditation. The laboratory underwent an ISO audit inspection by the National Accreditation Board in March of 2015 and was re-accredited for a third four-year term: May 25, 2015 to May 25, 2019.
The Rhode Island Department of Health Laboratory’s Forensic Sciences Unit is accredited to the ISO 17025 International Standard and to the FBI’s Quality Assurance Standards (QAS). A Quality Assurance Officer is needed to maintain the quality documentation system and to conduct regular internal audits of the Laboratory. The laboratory uses their annual Coverdell allocation maintain accreditation for the DNA/CODIS unit, as well as the Toxicology Unit and Drug Chemistry Units.
Rhode Island’s Office of the State Medical Examiner (OSME) uses Coverdell funds to purchase supplies to help strengthen the OSME infrastructure that are essential for the continued efficient and professional operation of OSME activities. They also use a portion of funding to pay travel, testing fees and registration costs for laboratory staff to attend various annual trainings, meetings and conferences relation to their field of expertise.
The Rhode Island State Police Criminal Identification Unit (CIU), a statewide full service law enforcement agency, uses their annual Coverdell allocation to seek and maintain accreditation by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)/Forensic Quality Services (FQS). The Unit’s activities contribute to that effort in allowing members to attend trainings and conferences and take necessary certification tests that lend directly to achieving accreditation.