The DNA Databank Unit is responsible for receiving, verifying acceptability, analyzing, and maintaining a repository of reference DNA samples in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) software. The software is owned and operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The primary purpose of CODIS is to assist law enforcement agencies with leads for investigations in which biological evidence was recovered. To accomplish these tasks, the DNA Databank Unit is responsible for developing an understanding of and applying the Wisconsin statutes, rules, regulations, administrative codes, and standards required to ensure the quality and security of the data stored in the database. The DNA Databank Unit is located at the Madison Laboratory. To support the unit, there are fourteen analyst and technician positions.
DNA Databank Collections and Wisconsin Act 20
The Wisconsin DNA Databank is largely dependent upon law enforcement’s collection of high quality reference DNA samples. Thus, to ensure comprehensive usage by law enforcement facilities and to lend consistency in training and reference DNA sample collection throughout Wisconsin, the DNA Databank kits are offered at no cost to law enforcement agencies. Additionally, in preparation for Wisconsin Act 20, the DNA Databank Unit worked with the Bureau Computing Service for almost two years to improve and simplify the DNA Databank submission form as well as provide up to date information about an individual’s DNA Databank status.
On April 1, 2015 Wisconsin implemented a new state law that significantly impacted the collection of reference DNA samples by law enforcement officials. In brief, Wisconsin Act 20 enforces collection of DNA from a subset of violent felonious acts at arrest (adults and juveniles), all misdemeanor convictions from adults, a subset of misdemeanor convictions from juveniles, and all felony convictions (adults and juveniles). The fine print of Wisconsin statute §165.76(1)(as) had several limiting factors that impacted the Wisconsin DNA Databank as well as Law Enforcement. First, a legal interpretation determined that the legislative intent was to limit misdemeanor conviction collections to individuals for whom the date of the offense occurred on or after April 1, 2015. Second, Wisconsin Act 20 prevents the laboratory from processing an arrest DNA sample until probable cause is established and requires destruction of an arrest DNA sample at one year if it is not established. Ultimately, these legislative modifications significantly transformed the workload and workflow, requiring additional staff, facilities, and software to meet the expanded requirements.
In 2015, the Wisconsin DNA Databank received over 24,000 reference DNA samples, roughly a twofold increase from 2014; in 2016 the Wisconsin DNA Databank received over 36,000 reference DNA samples. Greater than 50% of the samples received in 2016 were collected from misdemeanors. When closely evaluating the quarterly intake numbers above it does appear that sample intake peaked in Quarter one and two of 2016 and is approaching a plateau. Specifically, while misdemeanor and violent felony arrest intake have remained steady throughout 2016 the number of felony convictions is declining.
The number of profiles uploaded and being searched has steadily increased throughout 2016. Due to the probable cause requirement only a small subset of the arrest samples received in 2015 and 2016 have been processed and uploaded to CODIS. Further, approximately 15% of the arrest samples received in 2015 were destroyed because probable cause was never established. In addition, approximately 30% of samples contained an error requiring resolution prior to CODIS entry.
DNA Databank Growth and Hits
In addition to increased sample intake, the Wisconsin DNA Databank reported a total of 904 investigative leads in 2016, which exceeds the previous State record of 692 in 2010. Importantly, over 30% of the investigative leads provided to law enforcement were high priority matches (sexual assaults and homicides). Of note, a significant number of investigative leads (20%) have been linked to misdemeanor samples. An interesting example of the influence of misdemeanor sample collections is as follows: On August 8, 2016, a recently entered misdemeanor conviction sample hit to a sexual assault of a child case sent by Milwaukee PD. The individual involved in the hit had been collected for the misdemeanor 947.01(1) disorderly conduct.
On the Horizon
In February 2017, the Wisconsin DNA Databank released a new Submission Form. This Submission Form is still available on eTIME, WILENET, and the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory website. The changes are intended to make it easier for law enforcement to complete and prevent errors.
In 2017, there is one additional change on the horizon; the DNA Databank will be releasing a new DNA Databank Collection Kit. Currently, there are eleven separate items in the collection kit; the new kit will contain only three. The new kit will contain an EasiCollect+ collection device, a collection envelope, and a return envelope. These kits will remain free of charge to law enforcement agencies. Currently four agencies are participating in a pilot program using the new kits. The Wisconsin DNA Databank intends to implement the new kit slowly and in multiple stages throughout the state to allow for increased training and preparation.
There are instructive posters and informational documents located on the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory website to assist with collecting and submitting a reference DNA sample to the DNA Databank. If more training or resources is required please contact the Wisconsin DNA Databank at 608-266-2031 or DNADatabank@doj.state.wi.us.