The Audit Division, Office of the Inspector General has completed an audit of compliance with standards governing Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) activities at the Rhode Island Department of Health Forensic Laboratory (Laboratory). The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) CODIS program blends forensic science and computer technology to provide an investigative tool to federal, state, and local crime laboratories in the United States, as well as those from selected international law enforcement agencies. The CODIS program allows laboratories to compare and match DNA profiles electronically to assist law enforcement in solving crimes and identifying missing or unidentified persons.1 The FBI’s CODIS Unit manages CODIS and is responsible for developing, providing, and supporting the program to foster the exchange and comparison of forensic DNA evidence.
The FBI implemented CODIS as a distributed database with hierarchical levels that enable federal, state, and local crime laboratories to compare DNA profiles electronically. The hierarchy consists of three distinct levels that flow upward from the local level to the state level and then, if allowable, the national level. NDIS, the highest level in the hierarchy, is managed by the FBI as the nation’s DNA database containing DNA profiles uploaded by law enforcement agencies across the United States. NDIS enables the laboratories participating in the CODIS program to electronically compare DNA profiles on a national level. The State DNA Index System (SDIS) is used at the state level to serve as a state’s DNA database containing DNA profiles from local laboratories and state offenders. The Local DNA Index System (LDIS) is used by local laboratories.
The objectives of our audit were to determine if the: (1) Laboratory was in compliance with the NDIS participation requirements; (2) Laboratory was in compliance with the Quality Assurance Standards (QAS) issued by the FBI; and (3) Laboratory’s forensic DNA profiles in CODIS databases were complete, accurate, and allowable for inclusion in NDIS. The results of our review are as follows:
- The Laboratory was in compliance with NDIS participation requirements that we reviewed.
- The Laboratory was in compliance with the FBI’s Quality Assurance Standards that we reviewed.
- We reviewed 94 of the 373 forensic profiles in NDIS and identified 28 issues involving 21 forensic profiles in our sample. 2 Specifically, we identified: (1) 16 forensic profiles that had no documentation of law enforcement involvement; (2) 9 forensic profiles for which the Laboratory did not make and document a good-faith effort to obtain elimination samples and; (3) 3 profiles with administrative errors, including 2 with inaccurate values and 1 duplicate profile. 3 The remaining 73 profiles were complete, accurate, and allowable.
The Laboratory is attempting to obtain documentation of law enforcement involvement for the 16 profiles that were missing such documentation. In addition, Laboratory officials stated that if there is a match in any case in which no elimination sample was obtained, no report would be issued until an effort was made, and documented, to obtain an elimination sample. However, we believe the Laboratory should attempt to obtain the elimination samples for the nine profiles we identified where elimination samples were appropriate. Finally, the Laboratory fixed the duplicate profile, and corrective actions are pending for the inaccurate profiles.
We made six recommendations to address the Laboratory’s compliance with standards governing CODIS activities. The recommendations are discussed in detail in the Findings and Recommendations section of the 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 have included their comments in the report as applicable.
In addition, we requested a written response to our draft audit report from the Laboratory and the FBI. In its response, Appendix IV of this report, the Laboratory agreed with our findings and recommendations. In its response, Appendix V of this report, the FBI stated that it was in contact with the Laboratory to address our recommendations and, as a result, our recommendations are resolved. Our analysis of the responses and the actions necessary to close the report are contained in Appendix VI of this report.
- DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is genetic material found in almost all living cells that contains encoded information necessary for building and maintaining life. Approximately 99.9-percent of human DNA is the same for all people. The differences found in the remaining 0.1-percent allow scientists to develop a unique set of DNA identification characteristics (a DNA profile) for an individual by analyzing a specimen containing DNA.
- We found that some profiles had more than one issue.
- An elimination sample is a biological sample from a known individual, other than the alleged perpetrator or victim, which is analyzed for purposes of identifying those portions of a forensic DNA profile attributable to the alleged perpetrator.