Audit Highlights . . .
Our follow-up audit of Justice’s progress related to our October 2014 recommendation to increase available information about sexual assault evidence kits revealed the following:
- » Justice has failed to provide valuable information through its RADS program that the State can use to determine the extent of the benefits of testing all sexual assault evidence kits.
- Despite having established a database for law enforcement agencies and district attorneys to report case outcome information for sexual assault cases involving DNA evidence, Justice has not obtained key information.
- Justice has not adequately notified law enforcement agencies participating in the RADS program of case outcome reporting expectations.
- Justice has not provided adequate training and guidance to local agencies regarding how to report case outcome information, resulting in reporting inconsistencies.
- » If correctly reported, case outcome information could help policymakers identify needs for additional resources to aid the investigation or prosecution of sexual assault cases.
Results in Brief
The California Department of Justice (Justice) has not fully implemented a recommendation we made in our October 2014 report to increase available information about sexual assault evidence kits.1 As a result, the Legislature lacks valuable information on the extent of the benefits of testing all sexual assault evidence kits. We recommended that Justice obtain information on the outcomes of sexual assault cases—such as whether or not a suspect was arrested or convicted—from the law enforcement agencies and district attorneys that participate in its Rapid DNA Service (RADS) program.2 The RADS program ensures that all RADS sexual assault evidence kits associated with sexual assault cases are analyzed by one of Justice’s crime laboratories (crime labs). Justice implemented the RADS program in 2011 to decrease the time needed to analyze DNA collected in sexual assault evidence kits and increase the number of kits analyzed in California. When it analyzes a sexual assault evidence kit, a crime lab may identify a suspect’s DNA profile, which it can then upload to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). CODIS contains DNA profiles from people who have been convicted of or arrested for certain crimes as well as DNA profiles associated with unknown suspects. When it receives a DNA profile from a sexual assault evidence kit, CODIS compares it to those in its database to try to find a match. Such matches are known as hits, and they can potentially benefit the investigation or prosecution of sexual assault cases.
In our original audit, we recognized that—as a program that tests all sexual assault evidence kits in the counties it serves—Justice’s RADS program was uniquely positioned to provide insight into the extent of the benefits associated with testing all sexual assault evidence kits. Justice could gain this insight by tracking case outcome information and whether the hits generated through the RADS program furthered the investigation or prosecution of sexual assault cases. Therefore, in our previous report, we recommended that Justice require RADS counties to report this information to it. We further recommended that Justice report annually to the Legislature about those case outcomes.
However, despite having established a database where local law enforcement agencies and district attorneys can report case outcomes, Justice has frequently not obtained key information on the outcomes of sexual assault cases. We found that of the 417 hits generated from profiles uploaded to CODIS during the three years we reviewed, Justice’s CODIS Hit Outcome Project (CHOP) database did not have any case outcome information for 278—67 percent—of them. Additionally, among the cases for which it had partial case outcome information, we found that Justice had not always obtained key information about whether the hits furthered the investigation or prosecution. This information is critical because it can provide key insight into the benefit of increasing the number of sexual assault evidence kits tested in the State.
We identified key deficiencies in Justice’s efforts to obtain case outcome information that impaired its ability to do so effectively. Specifically, Justice had not adequately notified law enforcement agencies in counties participating in the RADS program of its expectation that those agencies report that information. Further, Justice has not provided adequate training and guidance to the local agencies regarding how to report case outcome information in CHOP, resulting in inconsistencies in the way some local law enforcement agencies reported this information. Finally, although we expected Justice to regularly review the case outcome information in CHOP to determine which agencies had complied with the reporting expectations and follow up with those that had not, it has not done so since implementing the reporting expectation.
Legislative interest in mandating the testing of all sexual assault evidence kits has not yet resulted in such a requirement. However, as recently as December 2018, a member of the Legislature introduced a bill that would require all sexual assault evidence kits to be tested. Although the bill is still going through the legislative process, we believe that a requirement to test all sexual assault evidence kits would be strengthened if it was accompanied by a requirement that all law enforcement agencies report key case outcome information to Justice. This case outcome information could help policymakers identify needs for additional resources to aid the investigation or prosecution of sexual assault cases.
Summary of Recommendations
If it amends state law to require testing of all sexual assault evidence kits, the Legislature should also require that law enforcement agencies and district attorneys report key case outcome data to Justice. Additionally, it should require Justice to provide training and guidance to those entities on how to report that information, and follow up with entities that do not report. Further, it should require Justice to annually publish summary information about case outcomes.
If it does not amend state law to require testing of all sexual assault evidence kits, the Legislature should amend the law to require Justice to obtain case outcome information from RADS participants. The Legislature should also require Justice to train all RADS participants on the requirement to report and update case outcome information, develop guidance about how to appropriately and consistently enter case outcome information within CHOP, review the case outcome information within CHOP to identify RADS participants that are not reporting, and annually report to the Legislature a summary of the case outcome information it has obtained.
Justice asserts that it has fully implemented the recommendation that was
the subject of this follow-up, but agreed that it could improve its
approach to obtaining case outcome information. However, Justice stated
that it will not be able to do so without additional resources.
2 In this report we use the term law enforcement agency to refer to local police or sheriff’s departments and separately refer to district attorneys when applicable. Go back to text