To “accredit” means to recognize an agency in compliance with a body of standards related to a specific discipline. Accreditation is a way for an institution to objectively demonstrate, by the evaluation of an external accrediting body, that it meets these standards.
On December 18, 2015 the DFS Pathology Unit achieved accreditation though the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME). As part of its mission to improve the quality of death investigation nationally and to recognize excellence in death investigation systems, NAME offers a voluntary inspection and accreditation program for medicolegal death investigative offices. This program is designed to offer expert evaluation and offer recommendations for improvement of functioning offices. Accreditation by NAME is an honor and significant achievement for any Medical Examiner office. This accreditation signifies to Delawareans that the office is performing at a high level of competence and public service.
On May 31, 2016, the DFS became an accredited laboratory through the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Lab Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) International program. This was the culmination of a multi-year effort to demonstrate and document adherence to the highest levels of quality in forensic science. The American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Lab Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) is an accrediting body specializing in assessing the competence of crime laboratories. ASCLD/LAB performed its first audits and issued its first accreditation certificates in 1982, and has continued in this role over the last three decades. As of 2015, approximately four hundred laboratories (private, local, state, and federal) maintain accreditation through ASCLD/LAB.
The Unit was previously accredited by ANAB and has maintained accreditation since 2002. The DFS DNA Unit is accredited under the ASCLD/LAB International based on compliance with ISO 17025 Standards and the FBI Quality Assurance Standards (QAS). The DNA Identification Act of 1994 requires laboratories to comply with the standards issued by the FBI if the laboratory receives federal funds or participate in the national database (CODIS). This requires two separate QAS documented standards; one for the casework and one for the CODIS database. Each document contains seventeen (17) major areas that are assessed with over 200 total standards. All of these standards must be met for accreditation to be granted. To maintain these high standards, the DFS DNA Unit is assessed annually, either internally or externally.
On July 1, 2016, the DFS Toxicology Unit received accreditation through the American Board of Forensic Toxicology (ABFT) program. This accreditation demonstrates established standards of quality for laboratories that practice Forensic Toxicology. This rigorous process is aimed at readily identifying laboratories that have demonstrated the requisite qualifications and competence in forensic toxicology. The ABFT Laboratory Accreditation is based upon compliance with professional standards as assessed by peer review, including an onsite inspection and successful achievement in proficiency testing programs as required by the Board.
Accreditation is just one component of the DFS’s quality assurance program. Through the efforts of a quality assurance manager, all units undergo proficiency testing, continuing education, and other programs to help the laboratory provide better service to the criminal justice system and demonstrate that our laboratory meets the highest standards of the forensic science discipline. All employees of the pathology unit participate in continuing education, in-services and mock fatality management training.