Monday, December 12, 2011

New School Puts Modern Forensics at Afghan Police Fingertips

From DVIDS Spc. Ken Scar: "Afghanistan took another big step toward autonomy Nov. 29 with the opening of the Afghan Criminal Techniques Academy and Laboratory.

The ACTA will train Afghan law enforcement officers in the forensic disciplines, which to this point have not been widely practiced in the Afghan justice system.

Figure 1: Afghan National Police member Mohammad Shafiq (right), an instructor-in-training at the new Afghan Criminal Techniques Academy and Laboratory on Bagram Air Field, shows fellow policemen and students Eqeban (left), and Habiburahman how to gauge a bullet casing with digital calipers in one of their brand-new classrooms.

The ACTA will teach essential techniques like fingerprinting, forensic photography, and firearms/tool marking and will eventually include instruction in the most modern technological and chemical evidence testing such as DNA processing.

“We will be able to find criminals and bring them to justice [with this forensic capability],” said Mohammad Shafiq, a member of the Afghan National Police who will be an instructor at the ACTA. “It will also help [Afghan citizens] be more confident in their police system.”

Initially, the academy’s instructors will be from the U.S., but over time Afghan law enforcement professionals will work as assistant instructors.

To make that transition as trouble-free as possible, the 10-week program at the ACTA will be supplemented by American experts embedded in Afghan National Police offices in each region of the country, guiding ACTA graduates through their first year of work.

“We’ll mentor these guys and make sure there aren’t any mistakes being made and that the product going out is accurate,” said Jon Eizinger, a U.S. civilian forensic specialist who will train instructors for the ACTA. “It’s a safety net that’s built in to make sure this goes smoothly and that these guys develop until they are able to be self-sufficient.”

The technology and knowledge provided by the new academy will greatly improve the credibility of Afghanistan’s criminal justice system, said Afghan National Army Col. Said Rahmatullah Quraishi, who is the ANP Assistant Director of Criminal Technique.

“In the old system the judges projected their opinion on cases because we didn’t have [forensic] technology,” said Quaraishi. “With this new ability [to present hard evidence] they will not be able to do that.”

The ACTA will play a pivotal part in Afghanistan’s transition from a judicial system where the burden of proof lies on the accused to one where a person is considered innocent until proven guilty.

Many Afghan citizens have been skeptical of their new government’s justice system, said Shafiq, but the new abilities to present evidence at trials, provided by ACTA schooling, will go a long way toward turning the tide of opinion.

“Now the people can have a lot more trust in us,” he said."

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