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How Arizona Developed and Used a Needs Assessment to Guide Judicial Forensic Science Training

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As technology plays an increasingly significant role in our society, it has become commonplace in the courtroom. New technological practices and discoveries bring forensic science topics such as DNA, latent print examinations, and digital evidence to the forefront of our court system. Not surprisingly, relevant training on these types of topics is essential for judges to sufficiently evaluate forensic evidence.

In 2016, Arizona created a Forensics Workgroup to investigate, plan, and deliver training to Arizona judicial officers on forensic science topics as part of the Arizona Supreme Court's Strategic Agenda. Building on the award-winning Arizona Forensic Science Academy, which began in 2011 and provides training for criminal prosecutors and defense attorneys,2 the Workgroup developed a needs assessment. The Workgroup then provided the needs assessment to all judicial officers in Arizona so that the bench could identify the most urgent forensic education needs. The responses identified the most urgent and relevant needs for forensics training. Using the results, the Workgroup planned and implemented an educational program on various criminal justice matters, held in December 2016 in conjunction with the Governor's Office of Highway Safety Conference. The Workgroup also identified opportunities to enhance existing judicial training programs (including new judge orientation training) with forensic science content, as well as creating an online forensic science reference repository available on demand.

This article provides an overview of the Workgroup, the needs assessment prepared and implemented by the Workgroup, and the responses received from Arizona's judicial officers. This article then describes programming at the December 2016 Arizona Judicial Forensic Science Conference, provides a summary of forensic science training added to the judicial training program, and offers an outline of the forensic science webpage created as a result of the efforts of the Workgroup. The hope is this article provides, at a high level, a toolkit for...