Contamination during criminal investigation: Detecting police contamination and secondary DNA transfer from evidence bags

Forensic Sci Int Genet. 2016 Jul;23:121-129. doi: 10.1016/j.fsigen.2016.04.003. Epub 2016 Apr 9.


As the profiling systems used in forensic analyses have become more sensitive in recent years, the risk of detecting a contamination in a DNA sample has increased proportionally. This requires more stringent work protocols and awareness to minimize the chance of contamination. Although there is high consciousness on contamination and best practice procedures in forensic labs, the same requirements are not always applied by the police. In this study we have investigated the risk of contamination from police staff. Environmental DNA was monitored by performing wipe tests (sampling of hot spots) at two large police units (scenes of crime departments). Additionally, the DNA profiles of the scenes of crime officers were compared to casework samples that their own unit had investigated in the period of 2009-2015. Furthermore, a pilot study to assess whether DNA from the outside package of an exhibit could be transferred to a DNA sample was carried out. Environmental DNA was detected in various samples from hot spots. Furthermore, 16 incidences of previously undetected police-staff contamination were found in casework that had been submitted between 2009 and 2015. In 6 cases the police officers with a matching DNA profile reported that they had not been involved with the case. We have demonstrated that DNA from the outside package can be transferred to an exhibit during examination. This experience demonstrates that when implementing the new multiplex systems, it is important to ensure that 'best practice' procedures are upgraded, and appropriate training is provided in order to ensure that police are aware of the increased contamination risks.

Keywords: Contamination; DNA; Forensic; Transfer.

MeSH terms

  • DNA / genetics*
  • DNA Fingerprinting
  • Equipment Contamination*
  • Forensic Sciences
  • Humans
  • Norway
  • Police*
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Specimen Handling / adverse effects*
  • Touch*


  • DNA