Box 2-1

FBI Databases and Reference Libraries

The CODIS Program consists of the development, enhancement, and support of software that enables forensic DNA laboratories to store, maintain, and search DNA profiles from crime scenes, offenders, and missing persons. Support of the CODIS software includes training for DNA analysts and help-desk services, as well as a yearly national meeting for all CODIS administrators. The unit also provides CODIS software to international law enforcement laboratories to assist them in establishing a DNA database program. Forty law enforcement laboratories in 25 countries now have the CODIS software. CODIS consists of a three-tiered hierarchy of databases: the NDIS [National DNA Index System], the State DNA Index System, and the Local DNA Index System. The highest level in the CODIS hierarchy is NDIS, which contains the DNA profiles contributed by participating federal, state, and local forensic DNA laboratories. There are more than 170 NDIS participating sites across the United States, including the FBI Laboratory, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory, and a laboratory in Puer to Rico.

The NDIS contains 6.2 million offender profiles and 233,454 forensic profiles as of August 2008. Its operation requires determining the eligibility of samples for the National Index in accordance with applicable federal law, developing procedures for laboratories participating in the Index, and monitoring the participating laboratories’ compliance with federal law. The CODIS Unit also provides administrative management and support for the NDIS Procedures Board and other DNA working groups. As of August 2008, CODIS has produced more than 74,500 hits, assisting in more than 74,700 investigations.a

The National Automotive Paint File contains entries dating as far back as the 1930s. The Paints and Polymers Subunit also serves as the U.S. repository for the Paint Data Query database, which is a Canadian database. State and local law enforcement agencies investigating hit-and-run homicides rely on both the National Automotive Paint File and the Paint Data Query database.

The FBI Explosives Reference File contains several thousand standards that help examiners identify the components and manufacturers of explosive and incendiary devices. The Explosives Reference Tools database (EXPeRT) combines the text of FBI Laboratory reports with evidentiary photographs from bombing cases and permits the rapid retrieval of information on any aspect of the forensic examination. The database also contains manufacturer data and open-source literature on the construction and use of explosives and explosive devices. An examiner can search EXPeRT, find similar devices, and identify similarities in the components used in the construction of an improvised explosive device.8

The Reference Firearms Collection contains more than 5,500 handguns and shoulder firearms; and the Standard Ammunition File, a collection of more than 15,000 military and commercial ammunition specimens from both domestic and international manufacturers.

SOURCE: FBI Web site at

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