Inventory Collection Methodology


Wisconsin has 72 counties and the vast majority of the state’s population is concentrated in the southern and eastern portions of the state. During the inventory collection phase of this project, there were 557 active law enforcement agencies in the state (including municipal, county, state, and Tribal agencies) that varied in size from one part-time officer to over 1,800 full-time officers. While the project team initially planned to complete the required statewide inventory by collecting data from all agencies at once, as the project progressed the WiSAKI team determined that approaching the inventory certification utilizing a phased approach by region of the state would be more manageable and would allow testing to start while the remainder of the inventory process was completed. The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) approved the request to complete the inventory in four regional phases, and shared this approved approach with the District Attorney of New York (DANY). Phase I of the inventory was completed and approved by BJA in November 2016, Phase II in January 2017, Phase III in February 2017, and Phase IV in March 2017. The methodology outlined below applies to all phases, as outlined on the map.

Inventory Process:

The inventory process was initiated in spring 2016. This began with members from the Wisconsin Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Information and Analysis (BJIA) assessing the list of required data elements from both grant funders, DANY and BJA, and strategically determining when those data elements would be collected during the project. Several data elements fit best with the initial inventory collection. These included:

  • Agency in possession of the sexual assault kit (SAK);
  • Incident/Case Number associated with the SAK;
  • Date of the Incident;
  • Date the SAK was collected;
  • Date the SAK came into the agency’s possession;
  • Age of the victim;
  • Whether or not the victim reported the sexual assault to law enforcement;
  • When the statute of limitations will run;
  • Whether or not the case is currently pending prosecution;
  • The primary reason the kit was not previously submitted to the Wisconsin State Crime Lab (WSCL) for testing;
  • Whether or not the kit will be submitted to the WSCL under this project (default is yes unless it meets a limited set of reasons why it should not be submitted);
  • If the SAK is not going to be submitted, the reason it will not be submitted.

Working with the WiSAKI team, the BJIA staff then developed the inventory form to capture these data elements, as well as the contact details for the agency completing the inventory (law enforcement, hospital or other). Detailed instructions on how to complete the inventory were drafted and reviewed by the team. There was extensive discussion both internally with the multidisciplinary team, and externally with statewide partners, defining which scenarios and circumstances would result in a SAK that should not be submitted for testing. Taking into consideration the project’s victim-centered approach and the requirements of both grants, the team defined a very narrow set of circumstances in which an agency should not send in the SAK for testing. The initial list included the following circumstances, although additional scenarios (discussed below) were identified as the process moved forward:

  • The victim did not report the sexual assault to law enforcement or did not consent to the SAK being tested and there was a suspect identified to LE;
  • The victim did not report the sexual assault to law enforcement or did not consent to the SAK being tested, the incident happened prior to July 1, 2011 and the incident involved a suspect who was not identified to law enforcement (per Wisc. Stat. 175.405 those kits taken after July 1, 2011 where a suspect has not been identified to law enforcement are required to be submitted to WSCL for testing);
  • The offender was acquitted or found not guilty of sexual assault;
  • The offender was convicted, has DNA on file, and the kit is being held until the offender is discharged from custody (per Wisc. Stat. 968.205).[1]

In March 2016, the instructions and inventory form were sent out via email to the heads of all the active law enforcement agencies in the state. The agencies were instructed to complete the inventories by either gathering the necessary information from the outside of the SAK and/or by utilizing their records management system. Agencies were also instructed not to open any of the SAKs. Agencies were further instructed to include on the inventory any SAK in their possession prior to December 31, 2015 [2] that had not previously been submitted to the WSCL for testing, [3] including anonymous SAKs, even if they were not going to be submitted for testing under this project.

In response to the initial email distribution, approximately 120 inventories (20 percent) were promptly returned. A follow-up email was sent out to the same contacts in June 2016. This resulted in approximately another 100 (17 percent) of the inventories being returned. In July 2016, two special agents from the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) were hired for this project and started systematically contacting the law enforcement agencies that had not yet completed inventories. The agents also began following up with the agencies that had submitted inventories, but the inventories were deemed incomplete due to data quality concerns or questions.

As the inventory review proceeded, it became clear that the sheer number of kits distributed in hundreds of agencies across an entire state presented significant challenges. The team determined that waiting for completion of a complex statewide inventory before beginning testing would cause an unacceptable delay and it would be better to conduct the inventory process by geographic region. A phased approach would allow the inventory from one region to be completed and certified, and testing could commence without waiting for completion of the entire statewide inventory. This determination ultimately led to a request to BJA and DANY to allow for a phased approach to the inventory approval, as shown on the map.

As of March 2017, all four phases of the inventory were submitted and approved by BJA, essentially completing the statewide inventory process for Wisconsin. However, the WiSAKI team has noticed a few changes in some of the inventoried SAK numbers reported by local law enforcement agencies when the SAKs are physically submitted to the WSCL for processing and testing. Due to these slight deviations, the WiSAKI team plans to provide one final statewide total of previously unsubmitted SAKs after all the inventoried SAKs have been accounted for at the WSCL.

Inventory Review:

As the inventories were returned, data quality reviews were conducted by the WiSAKI team. The purpose of this review was to identify missing or potentially inaccurate information, as well as to work toward consistency as to which SAKs were designated to send or not send for testing and the reasons not to send. In many cases this review necessitated additional follow-up with the agencies for clarification or changes before the final inventory was accepted. A final version of the agency’s inventory was also sent back to the agency, to ensure that both WiSAKI and the agency reviewed the final version. Once identified data quality issues were rectified and the inventory was finalized, the research analyst merged the individual inventories. Within that database individual responses were recoded and standardized for consolidation purposes and to allow for statistical analysis.

The team reached out the Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) providers for input based on several scenarios that arose during the inventory process. This resulted in a list of various scenarios that the team utilized to determine which SAKs would and would not be submitted for testing. Throughout that process, SAKs that required additional follow-up with the agencies were put in a “pending” status so as to not delay the completion of the overall inventory and additional follow-up was then conducted on these SAKs. This follow-up then helped to determine the number of SAKs designated for submission to the WSCL for testing. An example scenario is when an agency marked an incident as “unfounded,” but it is unclear whether there is insufficient evidence to indicate that a crime did not occur. The team used a working definition of unfounded as “the evidence and facts obtained during the investigation are inconsistent with the initial report, and there is credible, corroborating evidence that proves that a crime did not occur.” The challenge is determining whether some cases meet this definition and how this relates to CODIS rules for uploading profiles. Some of these cases are receiving additional follow-up as they are being submitted to the WSCL for testing. Fundamentally, the WiSAKI team's goal is to test as many SAKs as possible while adhering to grant requirements, state statutes, and CODIS rules.

[1] A random sample of these cases will be submitted and tested as part of the overall project, in part to meet grant requirements.

[2] Any kits that came into law enforcement possession between May and December 2015 are being considered part of the overall project, but are not currently to be tested as part of the BJA SAKI 2015 funding due to the timeline of the application and award of funding. For the purpose of the overall project, any kits in law enforcement possession through December 2015 are part of our overall SAKI project, in part due to the implementation of a new statewide protocol to address some of the issues with unsubmitted kits,which took effect in January 2016. This makes December 2015 a logical transition point for the project and the collection of kits. After discussion with BJA as part of the Phase I inventory approval, we are including all kits through December 2015 on the full inventory, but will be tracking the kits between May and December 2015 separately for funding purposes and will work with BJA to identify which funding will be utilized to test these kits.

[3] Several years ago, the crime lab retested some previously submitted kits using updated methods that were suitable for CODIS. The WSCL has been using DNA testing for many years and it is unlikely that many kits in the inventories will have been previously tested using older techniques. If these kits are submitted as part of the project, it will be clear based on the lab evidence markings and they will be processed accordingly.