Buttermore: How do organizations like the NFSTC bring benefits to the forensic community and how do these benefits relate to your mission statement?
Lothridge: Our vision is “for the forensic science community and its users to have complete confidence in the quality of the science services provided to the justice community as it strives to ensure the public safety”. Our job is to provide technical assistance and training to support the public-funded crime laboratory, which in turn, supports the general public. Our mission states that, “we are dedicated to supporting the justice community in ensuring the public safety by assisting the forensic sciences in the achievement of the highest level of quality services”. Our goal is to help the bench worker to accurately do his or her job. I enjoy the feeling of providing support to the nation’s crime laboratories so they can better assist in ensuring public safety.
Buttermore: Is there any other comparable organization to yours in the U.S. or in the world?
Lothridge: The National Institute of Forensic Science in Australia is similar to the NSFTC. We are both government supported and non-profit. The NSFTC is the only organization in the United States, that I am aware of, that is comprised of members in the forensic community and academic institutions and led by a Board of Directors to guide and deliver training throughout the 50 United States and two territories. Most other forensic organizations in the U.S. are hosted by universities or are committed to their membership belonging to a particular state.
Buttermore: What are the current trends in creating continuing professional development programs and how does that affect your organization both technically and through funding?
Lothridge: Historically, there has been a high demand for training with a mentor/trainee structure, where an external person provided the training. However, there are simply not enough trainers to address the need. Furthermore, in many law enforcement agencies where crime laboratories reside, budget cuts occur. Training budgets are usually the first thing to be cut because training is costly. The NFSTC tries to address this issue with a variety of online training options.