Improving investigations and the application of forensic science within the investigative process through the development of standards, research, and training
Understanding the factors, challenges, and processes that impact criminal and medicolegal investigations is crucial. An important part of improving investigations is understanding the current landscape that police, the forensic community, and the public face. The RTI Center for Policing Research and Investigative Science has decades of experience in tracking data—including emerging drug trends throughout the United States—that are used to inform public safety and public health officials and help improve their response to drug-related incidences.
We also have experience working with law enforcement agencies across the country to better understand innovative approaches agencies are taking to address the opioid epidemic in their communities and promote best practices—such as collaborating with community partners—for embedding harm reduction initiatives within the justice system. We have worked directly with public safety and forensic agencies to provide technical assistance to help them collect, process, and investigate cases as well as provide them with technical support to assist in external and internal data reporting and analytics.
The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) Program
The SAKI TTA program supports coordinated teams of police officers, prosecutors, crime laboratory professionals, sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs), forensic medical personnel, and victim services agency members. SAKI TTA provides victim-centered and sustainable practices; these practices help with collecting and processing forensic evidence, investigating and prosecuting sexual assault cases, and supporting sexual assault survivors.
National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS)
Since 1997, RTI has been contracted to develop and administer NFLIS, a database that includes results of drug analyses conducted by nearly 300 state and local forensic laboratories, representing approximately 1.5 million drug reports each year. Substances analyzed reflect drug evidence secured by law enforcement operations nationwide. The NFLIS program is expanding to include ante- and postmortem toxicological results from public and private toxicology laboratories and medical examiner and coroner offices.
The Census of Medical Examiner and Coroner Offices (CMEC)
CMEC focuses on the medicolegal death investigation system in the United States, providing a national picture of medical examiner and coroner offices, including personnel, expenditures, workload, capabilities and procedures, and resource needs. The goal of the project—which will collect data from more than 2,100 medical examiner and coroner offices across the country—is to provide improved information on the capabilities of medical examiners and coroners, the types of data systems and record retention procedures used, and the resource needs of these offices.
Controlled Substances Case Processing Study
Past surveys of forensic crime laboratories have shown that the majority of requests for forensic services involve controlled substances. One consequence of increased requests for drug analysis is significant increases in laboratory backlogs. RTI conducted case studies and stakeholder interviews in 10 U.S. jurisdictions to gain an improved understanding of the processing of controlled substances—from collection (law enforcement), to analysis (forensic laboratory), to adjudication (prosecutors)—including factors that influence decision-making at each stage in the process. The study identified practices for improving system-level efficiencies with drug cases, including reduced case backlogs and increased guilty pleas.