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From the Acting Director: Findings of the 2007 Forensic Evidence NIJ-Funded Survey

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 77 Dated: April 2010 Pages: 20-21
Date Published
April 2010
2 pages
The acting director of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), Kristina Rose, reports on a NIJ-funded survey to determine the scope of backlogs of forensic evidence that has not been sent to a crime laboratory for analysis.
The survey of just over 2,000 of the Nation's police departments solicited information on the number of cases with stored evidence that had not yet been analyzed by a crime lab. Of the cases with untested evidence, 14 percent were open homicides; 18 percent involved rape allegations; and 23 percent were open cases of property crimes. A concern not addressed in the survey is how many of these open cases could be cleared or advanced based on lab analysis of the stored evidence. Regarding evidence retention policies, the survey found significant disparities across jurisdictions. Only 46 percent of the respondents said they had a policy that requires the preservation of biological evidence in cases in which the defendant was found guilty. Less than half of the agencies had a computerized information system capable of tracking their forensic evidence inventory. Recommendations based on survey findings include more training for police in the benefits and uses of forensic evidence; the creation or improvement of computerized systems for tracking and monitoring forensic evidence; standardizing evidence retention policies across the Nation; improving evidence storage capacity; and the development of a system-wide approach for improving coordination among the police, forensic lab, and the prosecutor's office. NIJ is currently in a partnership with three jurisdictions to assist them in improving the movement of forensic evidence through the justice system. 1 table

Date Published: April 1, 2010