Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2016, $178,307)
Scientific crime laboratories play a critical role in solving crime, they help solve cases and assist in identifying dangerous offenders, using innovative technology and scientific data. Having crime laboratories available is crucial to Arizona's criminal justice community and maintaining high standards of forensics must be a fundamental investment by federal, state, and local governments. In order to improve crime laboratories throughout the state of Arizona, the grant funds will be used for training and educational opportunities, personnel overtime, purchasing innovative and new technology equipment, and laboratory certification fees. Agencies working in this collaborative effort include Arizona Department of Public Safety Crime Laboratory; Mesa, Phoenix, and Scottsdale police department crime laboratories; and the Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner. Laboratories will advance components of the state strategic plan for forensic laboratory improvements by supporting recommendations to annually dedicate funding for training programs, overtime to reduce backlogs, and equipment purchases. These laboratories have an essential need for funding. Providing certification and being able to keep up with innovative practices within the industry can be a hardship. Newly hired Scientists and lab personnel must be considered proficient in examining evidence, analyzing data, and drawing responsible and accurate conclusions in order to be considered experienced enough to be accepted as an expert witness in Arizona's courts. This formal training and education can take as long as two years to complete. Existing forensic scientists must remain current with the latest techniques, technology, and industry innovations in order to maintain laboratory accreditation guidelines. Forensic Scientists are held to very high standards by investigators, prosecutors and courts, and that is why all lab personnel must be trained and educated. Funding to send examiners to classes, conferences and seminars around the country can build in costs, that is why the Paul Coverdell grant plays such a crucial role in maintaining the high standard of forensic personnel Arizona has become accustomed to.
In order for program goals to be met, laboratories need to keep pace with the growing number of requests for analysis. This requires using funds to allow staff to work overtime in some cases and increasing laboratory capacity by purchasing equipment in other cases. As the State Administering Agency for Department of Justice funding, the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission (ACJC), is applying to the Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grant Program on behalf of the Arizona Department of Public Safety Crime Laboratory, three local forensic laboratories, and one county medical examiner's office in a collaborative effort to enhance state and local laboratories. Receiving funds from the Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grant will further the state's ability to improve the quality and timeliness of forensic science and medical examiner services.
The Arizona Criminal Justice Commission (ACJC) is applying for and will manage grant funds on behalf of each of the five sub-grantee agencies. ACJC provides grant oversight and is responsible for reporting to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) on grant progress. Upon receipt of grant funds, ACJC will award contracts to each of the five agencies. Funds will be reimbursed quarterly after submission of progress and financial reports by each laboratory.