Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2013, $492,295)
Untested sexual assault kits (SAKs) in law enforcement custody and backlogged SAKs in crime laboratories present significant challenges for the U.S. justice system. Practitioners and researchers have pointed to the importance of case management plans that prioritize evidence for analysis and interagency communication in managing backlogs. Some agencies (and even some states) have instituted "100% testing" policies that require the submission and analysis of all SAKs collected. However, little is known about the impact of these policies or what constitutes SAK processing efficiency in police-to-laboratory systems.
In an effort to understand these systems more fully, RTI will conduct a study of SAK processing efficiency in law enforcement agencies and crime laboratories. The efficiency approach will examine SAK processing outputs relative to inputs such as labor, capital (equipment), evidence policies and management systems, and communication between agencies. The goal of this research is to develop evidence-based recommendations for how best to increase efficiency and reduce numbers of untested and backlogged SAKs. This research study will be accomplished in phases. Phase 1 will entail national surveys of all state, county, and municipal crime laboratories that conduct biological forensic analyses (n=222), and collection of a linked sample of law enforcement agencies that submit SAK evidence to these laboratories (n=666). Phase 2 involves the estimation of translog production functions to identify and examine the effects of labor and capital inputs, as well as evidence policies, management systems, and interagency coordination on SAK processing efficiency. Finally, Phase 3 will involve the selection of six locations for site visits based on high- and low-efficiency in processing SAKs. These site visits will involve in-depth interviews with stakeholders to identify their policies, practices, and challenges to better understand the factors that promote or inhibit their processing efficiency. ca/ncf