Compliance with Standards Governing Combined DNA Index System Activities at the City of New York, Office of Chief Medical Examiner Department of Forensic Biology, New York, New York
Report No. GR-70-05-009
Office of the Inspector General
The Office of the Inspector General, Audit Division, has completed an audit of compliance with standards governing Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) activities at the City of New York, Office of Chief Medical Examiner, Department of Forensic Biology (Laboratory).1 The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began the CODIS Program as a pilot project in 1990. The DNA Identification Act of 1994 (Public Law 103-322) formalized the FBI’s authority to establish a national DNA index for law enforcement purposes. The Act specifically authorized the FBI to establish an index of DNA identification records of persons convicted of crimes, and analyses of DNA samples recovered from crime scenes. The Act further specified that the index include only DNA information that is based on analyses performed in accordance with standards issued by the FBI.
The FBI implemented CODIS as a distributed database with three hierarchical levels that enables federal, state, and local crime laboratories to compare DNA profiles electronically. The National DNA Index System (NDIS) is the highest level in the CODIS hierarchy and enables the laboratories participating in the CODIS Program to compare DNA profiles on a national level. The NDIS became operational in 1998 and is managed by the FBI as the nation’s DNA database containing DNA profiles uploaded by participating states. DNA profiles originate at the local level, flow to the state and national levels, and are compared to determine if a convicted offender can be linked to a crime, or if crimes can be linked to each other.
The FBI provides CODIS software free of charge to any state or local law enforcement laboratory performing DNA analysis. A laboratory’s profiles have to be uploaded to the NDIS before the profiles benefit the system as a whole. Before a laboratory is allowed to participate at the national level a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) must be signed between the FBI and the applicable state laboratory. The MOU defines the responsibilities of each party, includes a sublicense for the use of the CODIS software, and delineates the standards laboratories must meet in order to utilize the NDIS.2
The objective of the audit was to determine if the Laboratory was in compliance with standards governing CODIS activities. Specifically, we performed testing to determine if the: 1) Laboratory was in compliance with the NDIS participation requirements; 2) Laboratory was in compliance with the quality assurance standards issued by the FBI; and 3) Laboratory’s DNA profiles in CODIS databases were complete, accurate, and allowable.
We determined that the Laboratory was in compliance with the standards governing CODIS activities with some exceptions. Specifically, we noted the following exceptions.
Our recommendation to improve the Laboratory’s compliance with the NDIS standards is discussed in detail in the Findings and Recommendations section of this report. Our audit scope and methodology are detailed in Appendix I of the report and the audit criteria are detailed in Appendix II.
We discussed the results of our audit with Laboratory officials and we have included their comments in the report as applicable. In addition, we requested a written response to a draft of our audit report from the FBI and the Laboratory. In its response, the Laboratory agreed with our findings and recommendation. The Laboratory implemented our recommendation and notified the FBI of the disposition of its interstate candidate matches. The FBI did not comment on two of our findings. The FBI noted that because the CODIS software now provides electronic notification with regard to the disposition of candidate match cases, the FBI expects the NDIS Procedures Board to clarify a November 2003 revision of its notification standard. The Laboratory’s and the FBI’s comments are included in the report as Appendices III and IV, respectively.4