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Global Forensic and Justice Center awarded nearly $7 million in federal funding

Global Forensic and Justice Center awarded nearly $7 million in federal funding

December 14, 2020 at 1:22pm

The Global Forensic and Justice Center (GFJC) has been awarded $7 million from federal agencies to conduct forensic science research and provide training to forensic analysts and law enforcement. 

The U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) has awarded $4.49 million to the GFJC to prepare laboratories in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Panama, and Morocco for accreditation. Accredited laboratories adhere to strict standards in evidence maintenance and analysis, both of which support a rule of law courtroom – where the law, not a single person in power, rules. Because of international travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, GFJC is employing technology to deliver the training virtually.  

“Forensic science is a catalyst for justice,” said Kevin Lothridge, executive director of the GJFC. “When accredited laboratories are behind the evidence that analysts present in court, their testimony is based on the science. This funding provides the GJFC researchers the means to make a direct impact on justice on a global scale.”
The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) also awarded the GFJC a three-year, $1.7 million cooperative agreement to establish a pilot training program for field-drug testing. The aim of the program is to strengthen the reliability of drug testing by law enforcement, which decreases the strain on labs and court systems. The FIU team will incorporate rapid testing technology and methods that can be implemented in the real world.  

“Here at the GFJC, we’re in a unique setting where we have an industry-valued training provider in the National Forensic Science Technology Center and the International Forensic Research Institute, a research heavy-weight, together in one place,” said GFJC Director of Research Innovation Gerald LaPorte. “With these two powerhouses, along with access to other FIU departments, we can deliver real results that make a direct impact on our criminal justice system.” 

Federal research awards include more than $430,000 from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to support drug testing research in chemistry and biochemistry at FIU Professor Anthony DeCaprio’s chemistry lab. DeCaprio’s research seeks to identify the biomarkers of cannabis exposure that can identify whether it was used recently and determine how impaired the person who used it is. Research like this can help to establish a standard level of measuring cannabis intoxication like that used in detecting blood alcohol content. Ludmyla Tavares, a graduate student in DeCaprio’s lab, earned a two-year, $100,000 graduate research fellowship from the NIJ for her novel research into developing an alternative to forensic hair analysis. This can be especially important in death investigations, sexual assault cases where drugs may have been used to incapacitate the victim, or drug testing and compliance programs.      

The GJFC also received a National Institute of Standards and Technology award, valued at nearly $200,000, to assist in the creation of process mapping. This technique provides a detailed visual illustration and path to create a best practice standard for the collection, testing, analysis, and evaluation of forensic science evidence.