Evaluation of Digital Evidence Processing Efficiencies in Publicly Funded Crime Laboratories Project

Project Overview

In an effort to understand the specific investigative and testing needs of crime laboratories and law enforcement agencies (LE) regarding digital evidence and its data, RTI International is leading the Evaluation of Digital Evidence Processing Efficiencies in Publicly Funded Crime Laboratories (NIJ- 2020-DQ-BX-0016) project. RTI is a trusted research institute and provider of training and technical assistance in proficiency testing, forensic science improvement programs, and dissemination of forensic resources to over 22,000 forensic and LE practitioners.

This formative study uses a mixed-methods approach over three phases. Phase 1 consisted of a paired survey with a convenience sample of 80 crime laboratories and 71 LE agencies. The surveys informed our understanding of digital evidence (DE) caseload, resource needs, and DE submission, management, and analysis practices within and across jurisdictions. Phase 2 built on the survey findings by selecting six jurisdictions using caseload measures that show high and low DE processing rates, in addition to other criteria. These jurisdictions participated in an in-depth qualitative study which involved interviewing DE crime laboratory supervisors and LE investigators to gain a deeper understanding of their processes, procedures, communication, and coordination between the agencies. Phase 3 combines the knowledge gained from the Phase 1 and 2 study components to develop an evidence-based brief for crime laboratories and LE agencies that shows promising DE case investigation practices.

What is Digital Evidence (DE)?

Digital evidence, often referred to as “DE”, is defined by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) as information stored or transmitted in binary form that may be relied on in court. [1]


[1] National Institute of Justice – Digital Evidence and Forensics https://nij.ojp.gov/digital-evidence-and-forensics



Upon the conclusion of the crime laboratory survey in late 2022, an infographic was developed to highlight key takeaways from the administration of the survey.


This brief contains important DE findings and implications for both law enforcement and crime laboratories that resulted from an exploratory study conducted by RTI International. It also summarizes key considerations for law enforcement for storing DE and submitting it for analysis and for crime laboratories when processing DE.

Expert Bios:

Click on the dots below to scroll through experts.

Crystal Daye

Crystal Daye is a program manager in RTIs Workforce Wellbeing and Effectiveness Program, part of the Center for Public Safety and Resilience. She specializes in research on policing and investigative operations, workforce wellness, sexual assault response reform and forensics.

Ms. Daye has contributed to many projects focused on promoting up-to-date technology and best practices among police officers, forensic examiners, sexual assault nurse examiners, victim advocates, and other professionals in the criminal justice system. She currently co-leads the Evaluation of Digital Evidence Processing Efficiencies in Publicly Funded Crime Laboratories and has been a member of the National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Training and Technical Assistance (SAKI TTA) project since 2015, which is a Bureau of Justice Assistance funded effort that assists jurisdictions across the United States with creating a coordinated mutli-disciplinary response sexual assault investigation reform, including addressing evidence found in sexual assault kits (SAKs) that have never been submitted to a crime laboratory and supporting the investigation and prosecution of these cases. She has worked on many other projects, including the California Modern Policing AB-89 project, Assessment of the New York City Police Department Special Victim’s Division Response to Sexual Assault, the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence, the Arrest-Related Deaths Program, and the Census of Medical Examiner and Coroner Offices, among others.

Ms. Daye joined RTI in 2010. Previously, she managed the Morrisville Police Department’s efforts to achieve and maintain accreditation by the Commission for Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies. She also has experience in the pharmaceutical industry. She is a four-time recipient of the RTI President’s Award.

Nichole Bynum

Nichole Bynum is a Research Forensic Scientist in RTI’s Forensic Chemistry and Toxicology Program, part of the Center for Forensic Science Advancement and Application. Ms. Bynum is a board-certified toxicologist with diplomate status from the American Board of Forensic Toxicology. She specializes in analyzing drugs of abuse in human matrices and developing methods to quantify small molecules for a variety of applications. She currently co-leads the Evaluation of Digital Evidence Processing Efficiencies in Publicly Funded Crime Laboratories project and has served as a principal investigator (PI) and co-PI for several National Institute of Justice-funded research projects.

Prior to joining RTI, Ms. Bynum was a forensic chemist for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Chapel Hill, NC.

Chris Williams 

Mr. Williams, a Public Health Analyst in RTI’s Center for Public Safety and Resilience, has nearly a decade of experience supporting criminal justice-based initiatives from a variety of clients, primarily within the federal and state government sectors. His expertise in training and technical assistance and leading large scale data collection efforts assist multidisciplinary practitioners in implementing best practices and forming sustainable models for response to violent crime in their respective communities. Across several projects, Mr. Williams directs the development, review, and dissemination of many evidence-based deliverables, including briefs, webinars, virtual panels and in-person trainings. Additionally, he coordinates the delivery of needs assessments, deploying quantitative and qualitative research studies, and constructing written research reports.  His current research spans across a variety of topics, including sexual assault and violent crime response reform, assessing agency response to fatal and non-fatal shootings, evaluating forensic laboratory practices for the processing of digital evidence, and the standardization of Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) data in law enforcement agencies.

Prior to joining RTI in 2017, Mr. Williams worked as a Research Technician within NC State University’s Department of Molecular Biomedical Sciences, focusing on the validation and optimization of next generation DNA sequencing devices for high throughput methodologies with forensic science applications. His research has been presented at the International Symposium on Human Identification and published in Forensic Science International: Genetics and Forensic Science International: Synergy.

Peyton Scalise

Peyton Scalise, a public health analyst in the Center for Public Safety and Resilience in the Justice Practice Area, has 4 years of experience in public health-related research. Mrs. Scalise has assisted on multiple research projects and presentations involving community well-being. She specializes in the intersection of public health and policing, substance use prevention and treatment, and sexual assault response reform. Her research interests include addressing health, social, and justice issues in the context of substance use; violence against women; and vicarious trauma in public safety, as well as police-community relations and law enforcement coordination with public health. Mrs. Scalise builds bridges across disciplines to provide improved services and support to victims of sexual assault and to facilitate effective responses and support for individuals experiencing substance use disorder. She has experience in providing training and technical assistance (TTA) to state and local entities; conducting literature reviews, basic statistical analysis, and cognitive interviews; writing technical reports; disseminating findings; and marketing.

Ruby Johnson

Ms. Johnson is a research statistician who has experience with sampling, weighting, and analyses for large and small surveys. Her expertise is sampling using both stratified simple random sampling and probability proportionate to size techniques and production of analysis weights, balanced repeated replication weights, and jackknife weights. Proficient with SAS and SUDAAN, she has used both on numerous survey data sets for producing descriptive analyses, standardized comparisons, and multivariate models using linear and logistic regression.

Herschel Sanders

Ms. Sanders is a research survey methodologist who is experienced in qualitative and quantitative research methods. Her qualitative experience includes developing study protocols and moderator guides, conducting cognitive testing and in-depth interviews, holding an expert panel, holding focus groups, designing and formatting paper instruments, evaluating survey questionnaires using the questionnaire appraisal system, and led methodology report writing. She works with projects to create survey specification documents, programming survey instruments, and led a team of survey testers. She has also helped projects with recruitment plans. Her quantitative experience includes tracking recruitment soft and hard targets, monitoring data collection response rates, cleaning survey data, conducting statistical analyses, and writing reports. She has worked on a variety of data collection modes including paper, web, CATI, and CAPI. She has worked in both domestic and international settings.

John Grassel

John Grassel is a Forensic Science Program Manager at RTI. In this role, he leads cutting-edge, technology-driven efforts to support basic and applied research serving the criminal justice and forensic science communities. Mr. Grassel serves as the Co-Principal Investigator for the National Institute of Justice’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE), which supports the forensic science and criminal justice communities with transitioning research into practice. He is also the Principal Investigator for the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Implementation of the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) Standards for Scene Investigation project.

Before joining RTI, Mr. Grassel served as the officer in charge of the Rhode Island State Police Forensic Services Unit. In this role, he supervised all crime scene functions, pattern evidence examinations, bloodstain pattern analysis, shooting reconstruction, and video analysis. Additionally, Mr. Grassel served for 28 years on active duty and in the reserves of the U.S. Marine Corps, where he retired at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Project Partners:

  • Raleigh/Wake City-County Bureau of Identification
  • Houston Forensic Science Center
  • Fort Worth (TX) Police Department

Funding Support

This project was supported by Grant No. 2020-DQ-BX-0016 from the National Institute of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this document are those of the researchers and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Contact Us:

For questions, email the RTI project team at DEsurveyhelp@rti.org