Training for DNA Evidence Collection From Burglaries

 Sidebar to the article DNA Solves Property Crimes (But Are We Ready for That?) by Nancy Ritter.

The DNA Field Experiment found that officers who were adequately trained did as well as more specialized forensic personnel in identifying and collecting probative evidence. But how much does it cost to teach officers to collect biological evidence?

Although the Urban Institute's evaluation did not systematically examine the additional DNA training that jurisdictions provided to evidence collectors, the training appeared to be more or less the same in all five test sites: a day or two of officer (or other evidence collector) time, plus the cost of the trainers.

"Training appeared to be most effective when it was ongoing," said John Roman, senior research associate at the Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center. "Therefore, jurisdictions that want to begin using DNA evidence to solve property crimes would have to include such costs in any cost-benefit analysis."

Phoenix, one of the five test sites in the NIJ study, offers an example: 80 officers and detectives from the participating burglary divisions attended a one-day classroom course taught by forensic scientists from the department’s crime lab. Training consisted of several hours on how to identify, collect and preserve DNA evidence and several hours on testifying in court. At the end of the training, officers were given kits containing the tools for DNA evidence collection. They were also given laminated cards on collection procedures, including information that could be given to property crime victims on preserving evidence before it is collected by authorities. Urban estimated that the cost of the training (labor and materials) in Phoenix was $26,000 or about $100 for each of the 250 cases in the DNA-tested group.

To help its state and local partners reduce training costs, NIJ created an online training tool to help investigators and crime scene specialists learn how to identify, secure, document and preserve blood, hair, urine, saliva, skin cells and other biological evidence at property crime scenes. A section on evidence collection covers procedures, equipment, control and reference evidence samples, evidence marking and packaging, and chain of custody. The course also offers a bird's-eye view of the Combined DNA Index System and how it helps solve crimes.

Date Created: October 27, 2008