Northam designates Sept. 16–22 as Forensic Science and Medicine Week

businessGovernor Ralph Northam has issued a proclamation declaring the week of Sept. 16–22 as Forensic Science and Medicine Week in Virginia. Forensic science and forensic medicine play critical roles in the investigation of criminal activity, the determination of cause and manner of death, and the administration of justice in the Commonwealth.

The Virginia Department of Forensic Science (DFS), created in 1972 as the Bureau of Forensic Science, is a statewide laboratory system that is independent of law enforcement.  DFS is nationally accredited and provides forensic laboratory services in criminal matters across the Commonwealth. Virginia established its statewide medical examiner system in 1946—four years later, in 1950, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) became a division within the Virginia Department of Health.

Scientists with DFS, along with forensic pathologists and medico-legal death investigators with OCME, evaluate and analyze evidence, interpret results, and provide technical assistance and expert testimony related to evidence recovered from crime scenes and submitted for examination.

“The talented and hardworking staff at the Virginia Department of Forensic Science and Office of the Chief Medical Examiner provide the highest quality services to solve crimes and prevent criminal activity, which has helped make the Department a national leader in the field of forensic science,” said Governor Northam. “Virginia was the first state to implement DNA testing for criminal investigations and the first to establish a DNA Data Bank, which to date has resulted in over 12,000 cold hits. We recognize the vital public service that our forensic scientists provide in support of justice and we thank them for their dedicated service.”

Data from the Department’s Controlled Substances and Toxicology Sections and OCME are assisting the Commonwealth in responding to the opioid crisis.

“The Department has seen an unprecedented spike in drug case submissions that is attributable to the opioid epidemic,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “In addition, opioid compounds can be extremely lethal and require complex analysis. The staff are commended for their dedicated efforts to support the criminal justice and public health systems in light of the expanding caseloads. The Administration is committed to providing the Department with the necessary resources it needs in order to respond with timely and comprehensive results.”

“Over the past 70 years, every case undertaken by OCME staff across the state has two equally important components,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey, MD. “These components are the emotional and practical issues of family members and the scientific aspects of the investigations conducted. Nowhere is this more evident than in the state’s response to the opioid addiction crisis, which utilizes OCME overdose data to support efforts to educate, prevent and link individuals and their loved ones to treatment and care.”

“The Commonwealth is fortunate to have highly trained and knowledgeable forensic scientists who are committed to providing impartial, accurate and reliable results,” said Director of the Virginia Department of Forensic Science Linda Jackson. “Their work not only assists in convicting perpetrators of crime, but is used to exonerate innocent individuals who have been wrongly accused or convicted.”

“By the nature of the work performed by OCME we are acutely aware of the precise scientific analysis that law enforcement agencies require and the answers families seek,”said Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia Dr. William Gormley. “Each member of the medical examiner’s staff is committed to providing the respect families deserve and the detailed information demanded by the legal community.”

In fiscal year 2018, the Department of Forensic Science received 60,641 cases; 34,547 of these were controlled substances cases. In 2017, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner investigated 14,442 deaths.

Additional information about the Department of Forensic Science can be found here. Information about the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner can be found here.

The full text of the proclamation can be found here.

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