Forensics Program


History of the CTS Forensics Testing Program

Founding of CTS

CTS has been a forensic proficiency test provider since 1978, but the roots of the company’s expertise in interlaboratory testing were established several years prior. CTS was started in 1971 by research associates of what was then the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology). The founding staff had been involved in interlaboratory testing for several years and brought with them to CTS an extensive knowledge of quality systems as well as a desire to help laboratories better demonstrate measurement competence. Initially, CTS designed and operated proficiency testing programs for Color and Appearance, Containerboard, Paper, and the Rubber industry.

Establishment of Forensics Proficiency Testing

From 1974-1977, the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) funded a project by the Forensic Sciences Foundation (FSF) whose objective was “to determine the feasibility of proficiency testing as a tool to uncover problem areas in laboratory performance”. Since CTS was already experienced in providing proficiency tests for other industries, the FSF retained CTS to assist in this project as well. The first Proficiency Advisory Committee (PAC) was appointed at that time by the FSF to provide advice and oversight. Overall, 219 laboratories in the US and Canada participated in the study; 21 tests were offered. The study concluded that “a wide range of proficiency levels among the participating laboratories exists”; however, it also concluded that “properly supported, laboratories can be extremely proficient.” Thus, once the LEAA-funded project was completed, the American Association of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD) asked FSF and CTS to offer proficiency testing on an ongoing basis.

The CTS Forensics Program was formally started in 1978 as a commercial, subscription-based operation with initially 97 laboratories opting to participate. (The FSF-formed PAC became an ASCLD committee whose purpose was to technically advise FSF and CTS. In some cases, this technical oversight included actual manufacturing of the program’s test samples by the PAC members.) As the value of such testing was proven time and again to the laboratories, and as laboratories could obtain funding for the tests, the program continued to steadily grow. In 1981, the ASCLD Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) introduced a formal forensic science laboratory accreditation program which required labs to have tests from approved external proficiency test providers as part of their quality assurance activities.

The FSF remained a program affiliate of CTS until 1992 when it was formally replaced by ASCLD, who continued the role of program affiliate and provided official certificates of participation to laboratories in the program. ASCLD continued in its role as program affiliate until 1998; the PAC continued to advise CTS until 2000. Eventually the PAC was succeeded by the ASCLD/LAB Proficiency Review Committees (PRCs). The PRCs were originally established by ASCLD/LAB in 1993 to review tests performed by accredited laboratories; it was a natural progression for these committees to replace the PAC and produce test-specific guidelines for the creation of proficiency tests under the ASCLD/LAB Proficiency Test Provider Program.

Continued Growth and Evolution

Today more than 700 laboratories in more than 80 countries participate in the CTS Forensics Program. In order to demonstrate its commitment to providing a high-quality testing program, CTS is accredited by ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board / ANAB to ISO/IEC 17043:2010, "Conformity Assessment - General Requirements for Proficiency Testing," and the forensic-specific requirements of the ASCLD/LAB Proficiency Test Provider Program. In addition, CTS consults with the ASCLD/LAB PRCs and many other technical industry groups, including IAI and IABPA. The PRCs provide more than technical guidance: CTS works closely with these ASCLD/LAB groups to ensure the objectives, design and manufacture of each test meets their established criteria for proficiency testing. Also, to meet the requirements of some international programs, specific questions are added to individual tests where necessary. All of these factors work together to ensure that the program continues to maintain the highest standards while effectively helping forensic laboratories meet their testing needs.

Over time, as both laboratory needs and capabilities have changed, so too have the CTS Forensic Proficiency tests. Some tests have proven to be stalwarts, kept in the program, albeit in changed forms as technology and science have changed. Others have fallen by the wayside as newer techniques have proven their worth. Working with the industry, CTS has conducted numerous research tests to allow for refining of testing techniques and the exploration of new methodologies. Several of these research efforts have led to the creation of proficiency tests within most disciplines and additional tests will continue to be developed as warranted.

Experienced and Full-Service

CTS’ expertise extends throughout the full range of proficiency testing, including test sample manufacturing.The majority of the Forensic proficiency tests are now produced in house. From time to time, it is necessary for some aspect of a proficiency test to be performed by an external provider who has been previously identified as an Approved Supplier of Collaborative Testing Services. For example, the Firearms test is produced off site but always under direct CTS staff supervision. While the Serial Number Restoration test is the only test that is produced entirely outside of CTS, it is manufactured to CTS’ exact specifications. This level of control allows the CTS staff to respond quickly and knowledgably to any queries from laboratories.

Finally, all of the original (i.e., non-Forensic) programs are still operating today. In addition, after the founding of the Forensics Program, CTS continued to expand into other areas, launching interlaboratory programs for Metals and Fasteners (1988), Plastics (1992), and Wine (2001). Most recently CTS, in conjunction with noted expert Dr. Robert O. Miller, established an Agriculture program that includes soil and environmental testing. CTS continually evolves, establishing new tests and programs as demanded by various industries – all without losing sight of its original credo to help laboratories better prove their measurement competence.
Copyright © CTS, Inc., 2018

Collaborative Testing Services, Inc.
P.O. Box 650820, Sterling, Virginia, USA 20165-0820
Phone: 1-571-434-1925