In fall 2017, Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico. In the wake of the storm, the Puerto Rico Secretary of Justice, the territory’s attorney general, asked NAAG if it could help Puerto Rico’s prosecutors by assisting the crime lab with capacity issues.
In partnership with the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD), NAAG engaged in the multi-year Puerto Rico Forensic Science Project. The Project was guided by a Memorandum of Understanding among NAAG, ASCLD, and the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety (which had direct oversight over the lab). The Puerto Rico Department of Justice, and later the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, National Association of Medical Examiners, and American Society for Clinical Pathology, were among the key partners who assisted with the Project.
The Project included assessments by subject matter experts, ongoing dialogue among the stakeholders in Puerto Rico, and the provision of direct services by volunteer forensic scientists, anthropologists, and pathologists. The direct services, provided over the course of several missions, included:
- Examination of 105 cases by eleven volunteer forensic anthropologists.
- Autopsy of 102 bodies and examination of 20 more by volunteer teams of seven pathologists and eight assistants.
- Evaluation of the major forensic science disciplines by thirteen volunteer forensic scientists.
The Project was led by Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, and staffed through the NAGTRI Center for Ethics & Public Integrity. It also included ongoing dialogue among this team and federal and territorial leaders in Puerto Rico to discuss challenges related to public safety.