Sunday, August 03, 2008

CSI - OC Part Two- Significance of OC Sheriff-Coroner ASCLD/LAB Accreditation - Part Two

CSI - OC Part Two

Significance of OC Sheriff-Coroner ASCLD/LAB Accreditation - Part Two

July 27, 2008

Congratulation to the OCSD Forensics lab for having achieved a significant milestone in the history of public sector laboratory history. The Orange County Sheriff-Coroner laboratory is the first local government, full-service laboratory in California to be accredited in the ASCLD/LAB-International program, according to ASCLD/LAB-International program manager John Neuner

Mr. Neuer told us that, "the laboratory has satisfactorily demonstrated they are providing forensic science testing services in accordance with internationally accepted practices for a testing laboratory"

In trying to understand the significance of the ASCLD/LAB-International accreditation, we contacted Mr. Neuner to obtain copies of the ASCLD/LAB site inspections. Citing confidentiality issues, Mr. Neuner referred us to the Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Laboratory director Dr. Dean Gialamas. After repeated attempts to reach Dr. Gialamas, Captain Michael James sent us the information we were looking for, under the Freedom of Information Act.

Included in the information we graciously received from captain Michael James were responses to a couple of questions we had:

Question 1: Help us understand which budget the funds came from, and who authorized the program.

Response 1: Funds were authorized by the Sheriff's Department, via a procurement process, and were paid for by the ForensicScience Services Division budget. The program was authorized by the Laboratory Director.

Question 2: Did the ASCLD/LAB accreditation team take into account that the lab is not an independently managed organization?

Response 2: Yes, and in fact it is part of the accrediting standards to make sure that the parent organization does not interfere with or otherwise influence the technica1 operations of the laboratory.

We also received confirmation from Mr. Neuner on Question 2 as follows:

"The response you received from the Orange County Sheriff's Department laboratory is correct, and refers to an ISO/IEC 17025:2005 accreditation standard. The standard establishes the requirement that "If the laboratory is part of an organization performing activities other than testing," there must be defined responsibilities for anyone in the organization outside the laboratory who could influence the testing activities. The intent of the standard is for the laboratory to identify potential conflicts of interest, and to ensure there is no inappropriate influence on the testing activities of the laboratory. This was an element our assessment team considered prior to ASCLD/LAB granting accreditation"

Searching for closure, we looked at ISO/IEC 17025:2005 requirements and two clauses caught our eye:

ASCLD/LAB Certificate issued to OCSD Lab OC Sheriff Sandra Hutchens

Clause 4.2.3 "Top management shall provide evidence of commitment to the development and implementation of the management system and continually improving its effectiveness."

Clause 4.2.4 "Top management shall communicate to the organization the importance of meeting customer requirements as well as statutory and regulatory requirements."

Does top management in this case mean Sheriff Hutchens? Captain James, or Dr. Gialamas?

Who is the customer in this case? Taxpayers? The OCDA? The OCBoS? The AOCSD? The press? Paul Morabito?

Taking into consideration the responses we have received from captain James and Mr. Neuner, we are still confused: How does the ASCLD/LAB (an alleged independently managed organization) explain that before the OSCD Forensics lab can spend 0.002857143% (ASCLD/LAB' accreditation invoice) of the total OCSD department yearly budget, it had to go through a procurement process ultimately authorized by the Sheriff's Department? Or what about that in order to respond to a simple question addressed to the forensics lab, one has to go through the Freedom of Information Act, then the information must be approved by the Sheriff's Public Affairs and the Support Services Division? - we made it clear to Mr. Neuner that we understood the spirit of the ISO/IEC 17025:2005 standard management section was to not only establish boundaries that can be used for accountability purposes, but also document the forces of influence, including corporate culture, that may veer the organization away from the stated mission/vision/goals - that is, not a simple paper exercise represented by an organization chart.

Our second outstanding question to Mr. Neuner is: What challenges, or opportunities for the ASCLD/LAB's accreditation of the OCSD were created by Dr. Dean Gialamas' previous association with the ASCLD/LAB?

We have yet to hear from the ASCLD/LAB-International accreditation on the last two questions.


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