IACP August Vollmer Leadership in Forensic Science Award

IACP recognizes the significant impact forensic science has on the criminal justice system. The IACP August Vollmer Leadership in Forensic Science Award has been created to honor the proactive, innovative use of forensic technologies by law enforcement.


2017 Winner – International criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program, Colombian National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Science, Department of Justice, Colombia

For more than five decades the phenomena of “forced disappearance” of persons in Colombia has resulted in an estimate of at least 100,000 missing individuals.  To date, the State has been able to recover approximately 10,000 skeletonized corpses and has been able to identify approximately 25% percent of them.  

 Over the last seventeen years, Colombia has enacted legislation, based on international standards, to support the work of its institutions involved in the search, recovery and identification of its missing among which figure the many victims of forced disappearance. One of the most significant challenges faced by the State when dealing with victims of forced disappearance (if presumed dead) is that the recovery and identification of victims is legally both a humanitarian enterprise as well as a criminal investigation. Due to the great number and variety of groups involved in this effort, the country was faced with the challenge of developing a set of minimum, consensus standards to guide the multi-disciplinary tasks involved in the search, recovery, and identification efforts of the missing presumed dead.  These standards take into account international standards of groups advancing similar efforts, the scientific basis of the techniques and procedures involved in all aspects of the work, as well as, the accuracy and reliability of the identification methods employed. 

Under the leadership of its Director, Dr. Carlos Eduardo Valdes Moreno, the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences organized committees in 2015 that forged into developing National Human Identification Standards. Represented in the various committees and roundtable discussions were the Technical Investigation Corps (CTI) of Colombia’s Attorney General’s Office, the Colombian National Police Forensic National Laboratories (DIJIN), the International Committee of the Red Cross in Colombia, the Argentine Team of Forensic Anthropology, various non-governmental agencies such as EQUITAS  (Colombian Interdisciplinary Team of Forensic Work and Psycho-social Assistance) and ASFADDES (Association of Victim’s Families), as well as, six renown national universities, among them the Universidad Externado de Colombia and the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Universidad de Caldas, and one international university, New York University.  

In April, 2017, the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences published the first “National Minimum Standards for the Search, Recovery and Identification of the Remains of Missing Persons in Colombia.”  This work product also represents the first time that a State forensic institution, in association with such a wide spectrum of collaborators, was able to publish a set of consensus national forensic standards. Without such standards, the development of criminal cases against the violators would be nearly impossible.  It is for these reasons that the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Science has been selected for the 2017 International Association of Chiefs of Police August Vollmer Leadership in Forensic Science Award.