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It's More Complex Than You Think: A Chief's Guide to DNA

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2010
232 pages

This guide instructs police chiefs and other law enforcement executives in the use of DNA evidence in criminal investigations.


The information presented will help law enforcement executives to manage their DNA testing needs and capabilities as they face the ever-increasing demand for DNA evidence in coming years. Since different options for the management of DNA evidence processing must be considered by law enforcement executives in meeting the needs of a particular agency, this guide presents the key questions that law enforcement executives should ask themselves in making these decisions. These questions include whether or not the agency should have its own DNA lab; the cost for creating and operating such a lab; the implications of using a private lab for DNA processing that will be submitted to the FBI's CODIS database in searching for a match; why lab accreditation is essential; the size of the DNA backlog; and how to ensure that the DNA lab that is used will be responsive to police requests for expediting high-priority cases. Other issues addressed in the guide are the implications of the National Academy of Sciences 2009 report on forensic science, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Melendez-Diaz case. The guide provides a checklist of steps a police chief should follow when making decisions about how his/her agency should manage the processing of DNA evidence. The Police Executive Research Forum obtained information for this guide by interviewing police chiefs, crime-lab directors, and other experts in this field. Other sources of information were site visits to DNA labs, a survey of law enforcement agencies, and an Executive Session held in September 2009 to discuss the challenges facing police executives regarding the management of DNA evidence. 8 appendixes with supplementary information

Date Published: September 1, 2010