This is a story that infuriates me. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has disbanded an advisory panel of scientists set up to help the DOJ reform the use and often abuse of forensic science in our courts and police departments. Because why would we want scientists to advise us on science, amirite?
Attorney General Jeff Sessions will end a Justice Department partnership with independent scientists to raise forensic science standards and has suspended an expanded review of FBI testimony across several techniques that have come under question, saying a new strategy will be set by an in-house team of law enforcement advisers.
In a statement Monday, Sessions said he would not renew the National Commission on Forensic Science, a roughly 30-member advisory panel of scientists, judges, crime lab leaders, prosecutors and defense lawyers chartered by the Obama administration in 2013.
A path to meet needs of overburdened crime labs will be set by a yet-to-be-named senior forensic adviser and an internal department crime task force, Sessions’s statement said.
The announcement came as the commission began its last, two-day meeting before its term ends April 23, and as some of its most far-reaching final recommendations remained hanging before the department.
Justice officials said, for example, that no decision has been made on a call for new, department-wide standards for examining and reporting forensic evidence in criminal courts across the country. But the department has decided to suspend work on setting uniform standards for forensic testimony.
“The availability of prompt and accurate forensic science analysis to our law enforcement officers and prosecutors is critical to integrity in law enforcement, reducing violent crime, and increasing public safety,” Sessions said in the statement. “We applaud the professionalism of the National Commission on Forensic Science and look forward to building on the contributions it has made in this crucial field.”
That’s the equivalent of “I’m not a racist, but…” Translation: “This is really important work they did, so naturally I’m going to get rid of the group, bury their recommendations and do what I think is right anyway.” And innocent people will continue to be convicted of crimes they did not commit because our police departments, prosecutors and courts are still living in the 19th century.
Shows like CSI have convinced everyone that forensic science is foolproof and 100% accurate, but many of the techniques used have little or no scientific grounding whatsoever. Innocent people have been sentenced to death on the basis of laughable science like “bite mark analysis.” Innocent people get arrested, charged and convicted because a drug dog “alerts” when we know that those “alerts” are subjective and usually false. People are coerced into confessions or wrongly identified by eyewitnesses because most of our police departments do not follow a protocol to reduce the influence of the officer working with them. I could literally go on all day.
But Sessions doesn’t care. All he cares about is locking up as many people as he can, and if they have dark skin that’s a big bonus for him. Jeff Sessions: The smiling face of racism, ignorance and demagoguery.