I started an online course last night entitled “What Every Law Enforcement Officer Should Know About DNA Evidence”. I found it by mistake but am thrilled to be learning more about the topic. Although, I’m not in law enforcement, it’s pretty straight forward and easy to grasp. I started it last night and finished it within the hour. For more info, visit http://www.dna.gov/ The courses are free and available to law enforcement, family and victim advocates. They also provide booklets and publications like “Identifying Victims Using DNA: A Guide for Families”
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice. The agency is committed to exploring crime control and justice issues. An area of focus is “DNA technology” which has increasingly become a vital tool in the criminal justice system. In order to increase and improve the use of this technology, the President announced a 5 year, billion dollar initiative, (President’s DNA Initiative), which promotes “Advancing Justice through DNA Technology”.
The President’s DNA Initiative targets specific goals:
- To eliminate the current testing backlog of DNA samples
- Improve DNA laboratories’ testing capacities
- Research and Development of DNA technologies
- Training and Assistance for criminal justice professionals
- Provide access to post conviction DNA testing
- The use of DNA for missing persons cases and identifying human remains
- Protect the innocent
The UNT, Center for Human Identification (UNTCHI), with support by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), has become a recognized national center providing scientific and technical support to law enforcement agencies, medical examiners, and crime labs throughout the country.
UNTCHI in collaboration with law enforcement offers families with missing loved ones the opportunity to submit reference samples for DNA testing. The lab is one of only a few facilities that integrates nuclear and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) for analyses. Once DNA profiles are obtained, they are directly entered into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System plus Mito (CODIS+mito) database.
In addition to testing family and direct reference samples, the DNA lab works in collaboration with the Laboratory of Forensic Anthropology in Denton, Texas to help identify the remains of victims. DNA profiles obtained from remains are also entered into the CODIS+mito database.
Information for Relatives of Missing Persons,
Coroners, Medical Examiners & Law Enforcement Agencies
UNTCHI personnel will work with medical examiners, coroners’ offices, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the National Center for Missing Adults, and law enforcement agencies throughout the United States with the submission, collection, and analyses of Missing Persons samples.
A missing person report should be filed with the Law Enforcement Agency having jurisdiction where the individual was last seen or last resided. The Law Enforcement Agency will determine if the missing person meets a “High Risk” criteria. The agency may ask the family to submit personal articles belonging to the missing person (Direct Reference Sample, DRS); in addition, they may need to collect Family Reference Samples (FRS). The collection and submission of FRS can only be collected and submitted by the Law Enforcement Agency. Family reference collection kits (swabs) and the required paperwork are provided by the UNTSCHI. The collection kits and testing are provided free of charge.
After analysis, the profiles will be entered into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System and uploaded to the FBI’s National Missing Persons DNA Database.
Correspondence is mediated through the Law Enforcement Agency. If a match occurs, the Law Enforcement Agency will notify the family.
Law Enforcement Agencies, Medical Examiners, and Coroners may need to submit Unidentified Human Remains, (UHR). Identifying remains through DNA can be a lengthy process. There may be cases where there is no usable DNA or not enough relatives available for testing; however, our professional staff will pursue every avenue to obtain a profile.
Victim Advocates > What You Should Know About DNA Evidence
What You Should Know:
* What is DNA?
* Evidence Collection
* Contamination and Preservation
* DNA Testing and Interpretation
* Uses of DNA Evidence
* Identifying DNA Evidence
* Suggested Resources
DNA evidence is playing a larger role than ever before in criminal cases throughout the country, both to convict the guilty and to exonerate those wrongly accused or convicted. This increased role places greater importance on the ability of victim service providers to understand the potential significance of DNA evidence in their clients’ cases.
DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the building block for the human body; virtually every cell contains DNA. The DNA in people’s blood is the same as the DNA in their saliva, skin tissue, hair, and bone. Importantly, DNA does not change throughout a person’s life.
The Value of DNA Evidence
DNA is a powerful investigative tool because, with the exception of identical twins, no two people have the same DNA. Therefore, DNA evidence collected from a crime scene can be linked to a suspect or can eliminate a suspect from suspicion. During a sexual assault, for example, biological evidence such as hair, skin cells, semen, or blood can be left on the victim’s body or other parts of the crime scene. Properly collected DNA can be compared with known samples to place a suspect at the scene of the crime. In addition, if no suspect exists, a DNA profile from crime scene evidence can be entered into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) to identify a suspect anywhere in the United States or to link serial crimes to each other.
The effective use of DNA as evidence may also require the collection and analysis of elimination samples to determine the exact source of the DNA. Elimination samples may be taken from anyone who had lawful access to the crime scene and may have left biological material. When investigating a rape case, for example, it may be necessary to obtain an elimination sample from everyone who had consensual intercourse with the victim within 72 hours of the alleged assault to account for all of the DNA found on the victim or at the crime scene. Comparing DNA profiles from the evidence with elimination samples may help clarify the results.
Using CODIS To Solve Crime
CODIS uses two indexes to generate investigative leads in crimes that contain biological evidence. The forensic index contains DNA profiles from biological evidence left at crime scenes, and the offender index contains DNA profiles of individuals convicted of violent crime. Each State in the Nation has a DNA database law that defines which convicted offenders must have their profiles entered into CODIS; some States even require that DNA profiles from all felons be entered into the database. CODIS enables Federal, State, and local forensic crime laboratories to work together—between jurisdictions and across State lines—to solve crimes.
From Understanding DNA Evidence: A Guide for Victim Service Providers, May 2001, Brochure, National Institute of Justice and Office for Victims of Crime