American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors
Prior to developing a code of ethics, some people within the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD) opposed guidelines and thought that it was better to leave issues of ethics to regional associations (Peterson and Murdock, 1989). The decision was made to disregard this stance because the positives far outweighed the negatives. Some of the things that a code helps with are checking and verifying credentials and training, protecting members from external pressures, overseeing testimony of scientists, assuring that reports are supported by laboratory documentation, assuring that reports and testimony balance the data, and assisting with professional conflicts.
The ASCLD code of ethics deals with the various professional responsibilities of forensic scientists, particularly laboratory directors. The responsibility as an employer is to pursue the goals of the parent organization. The responsibility to employees is to foster internal relationships; to supervise and manage the working environment; to provide education, training, and professional development; and to maintain objectivity and not succumb to influences by adversaries. The employer is also responsible for hiring people with the necessary amount of training, skills, and proficiency, and setting realistic performance goals for employees. The laboratory director has a responsibility of public interest to avoid activities that interfere with his or her independent judgment. The responsibilities to the profession include supporting employees in professional activities and societies; supporting academic programs, interns, and research; and supporting accreditation. It is recommended that the code include a section on quality assurance to verify and monitor proficiency of investigations and the courtroom activities of analysts. Though there was hesitation in the beginning, ASCLD’s code of ethics has served as a model for many other organizations. Because there are written, validated procedures in place that assure legitimacy and objectivity of work performed, the code provides guidance on the proper scientific working environment and shows commitment to achieving goals. The code also encourages employees to participate in activities of professional societies. The responsibilities spelled out by ASCLD’s code of ethics serve as a guide for laboratory directors and many other organizations that seek the same professional structure.
Section 2—Code: As members of the ASCLD, we will strive to foster an atmosphere within our laboratories, which will actively encourage our employees to understand and follow ethical practices. Further, we shall endeavor to discharge our responsibilities toward the public, our employers, our employees, and the profession of forensic science in accordance with the following ASCLD Code of Conduct.
- 2.1. No member of ASCLD shall engage in any conduct that is harmful to the profession of forensic science, including, but not limited to, any illegal activity, any technical misrepresentation or distortion, any scholarly falsification.
- 2.2. No member of ASCLD shall use their position to impose undue pressure on an employee to take technical shortcuts or arrive at a conclusion that is not supported by scientific data.
- 2.3. No member of ASCLD shall discriminate against any current or prospective employee in his or her organization based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, or disability.
- 2.4. No member of ASCLD shall engage in any conduct that is detrimental to the purpose of ASCLD as outlined in Article II of the bylaws.
- 2.5. No member of ASCLD shall misrepresent his or her expertise or credentials in any professional capacity.
- 2.6. No member of ASCLD shall offer opinions or conclusions in testimony, which are untrue or are not supported by scientific data.
- 2.7. No member of ASCLD shall misrepresent his or her position or authority in any professional capacity.
- 2.8. No member of ASCLD shall make written or oral statements, which imply that the member is speaking on behalf of ASCLD or the Board of Directors without the permission of the President.
- 2.9. No individual may gain membership in ASCLD nor shall he or she retain membership if he or she has been convicted of a felony offense.
- 2.10. All members shall report, to the extent permitted by law, to the Board of Directors any potential ethics violation committed by another member of ASCLD (www.ascld.org).