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Press Release

Justice Department Examines Priority Needs of Forensic Laboratories and Medical Examiner and Coroner Offices

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

The Office of Justice Programs’ National Institute of Justice (NIJ) today published the findings of a two-year assessment that examined the personnel, workload and equipment needs of public crime laboratories and medical examiner and coroner offices.

“A strong network of crime labs, medical examiners and coroners is central to a well-functioning justice system,” said Office of Justice Programs Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine T. Sullivan. “This report serves as a blueprint for federal, state, local and tribal officials as they work to build their forensic capabilities, staff their agencies and apply evidence-based practices to their most pressing public safety challenges.”

The Department of Justice’s Needs Assessment of Forensic Laboratories and Medical Examiner and Coroner Offices provides guidance and possible solutions through promising and evidence-based practices to address needs identified from stakeholders and experts from the field. It also addresses special topics such the opioid crisis, digital and multimedia evidence, sexual assault casework, forensics for tribal communities, and mass disaster and critical incident preparedness.

The report emphasizes the importance of systems-based approaches involving coordination and collaboration between forensic laboratories, law enforcement, legal professionals and other stakeholders. The report also identifies ways to address the challenges faced by forensics laboratories, such as sufficient and consistent funding; strategies and approaches to addressing staffing and personnel shortages; and activities to support the advancement of quality assurance programs.

To assess topics, NIJ held listening sessions with forensic science professionals and subject matter experts from forensic disciplines across the criminal justice system to inform and provide recommendations to the report. The feedback from the listening sessions, stakeholder comments and literature reviews were compiled into the assessment.

This assessment is a product of the Department’s ongoing mission to facilitate coordination and collaboration on forensic science within the Department, across the federal government, and with state, local and tribal entities.        

To view the report, see

More information on NIJ’s programs is located here:

The Office of Justice Programs, directed by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine T. Sullivan, provides federal leadership, grants, training and technical assistance, and other resources to improve the nation’s capacity to prevent and reduce crime, assist victims and enhance the rule of law by strengthening the criminal and juvenile justice systems. More information about OJP and its components can be found at

Updated December 20, 2019

Press Release Number: 19-1433