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 Medical Examiner 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 laboratories became accredited to the ISO 17025 Standard through the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Lab Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) International program, which later merged with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) National Accreditation Board, or ANAB. This was the culmination of a multi-year effort to demonstrate and document adherence to the highest levels of quality in forensic science. The ASCLD/LAB, and now ANAB, is an accrediting body specializing in assessing the competence of forensic service providers. ISO, or the international organization of standardization, issued the 17025 standard, which is a list of hundreds of requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories. Laboratories across the United States (private, local, state, and federal) and abroad maintain accreditation to the ISO 17025 Standard through ANAB.
In addition to being accredited to the ISO 17025 standard, the DFS DNA Unit is also accredited to the FBI Quality Assurance Standards (QAS). The DNA Identification Act of 1994 requires laboratories to comply with the QAS issued by the FBI if the laboratory receives federal funds or participates in the national database (CODIS). There are two separate QAS documents; one for casework and one for the CODIS database. Each document contains several hundred 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. Additionally, all employees of the Medical Examiner participate in in-services and mock fatality management training.