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Performing an Audit of Sexual Assault Evidence in Police Custody

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2016
16 pages
Based on the lessons learned from a NIJ (National Institute of Justice)-funded project in Detroit, MI, this report presents recommendations for performing an audit of the processing status of sexual assault evidence in police custody, particularly that contained in sexual assault kits (SAKs).
First, "Bring everyone to the table." This recommendation refers to the development of a multidisciplinary team that will ensure diverse perspectives are considered at every stage of the audit process. Second, "Formulate goals." Narrowly defined goals might include determining the number of SAKs unsubmitted for forensic testing; and broader goals might involve a review of each SAK to obtain information on the statute of limitations, the potential for prosecution, and other issues related to addressing delayed SAK testing. Third, "Clarify language and agree on terms to be used." This prevents miscommunication and misunderstandings among team members. Other recommendations for auditing sexual assault evidence in police custody pertain to the storage locations for SAKs, the computerized status of information on sexual assault evidence, the inclusion of information-technology (IT) staff, a pilot project with a small number of SAKs, development of an efficient work-flow process, creation of a central database, assessment of available resources and staffing-plan development, and the expectation of disagreements on audit findings and conclusions. Other recommendations for the audit procedure address a related review of local policies and State statutes on evidence retention, preparation for media inquiries and public scrutiny, and awareness that initial audit data may require revision if more information becomes available. Information on additional resources on this issue is provided.

Date Published: March 1, 2016