Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2016, $126,886)
The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences (ADFS) plans to utilize the FY2016 Paul Coverdell National Forensic Science Improvement Act (NFSIA) "Formula Grant Program" funds to reduce forensic case backlogs. The ADFS is the only agency that provides a full-service forensic laboratory system operating in the State. The ADFS provides primarily seven forensic services to the State of Alabama: 1)drug chemistry, 2) toxicology, 3) forensic biology (DNA analysis), 4) firearms and toolmarks, 5) forensic pathology (autopsies of decedents), 6) fire debris (arson analysis) and 7) implied consent (breath testing for alcohol). The main problem facing the ADFS is the backlog of forensic cases and the lack of supplies needed to conduct scientific analysis to remedy these backlogs. The backlogs that are directly impacting the citizens of Alabama and the State Court system are the backlogs in drug chemistry (controlled substances) and the backlog in Forensic Pathology (autopsy reports). The impact is that the backlog in lab reports from drug chemistry and Forensic Pathology section has caused many delays in cases going to court. These court delays can be in excess of 180 days in some extreme cases. The ADFS works closely with the State's District Attorney's offices and court system to work "rush cases" out of turn to ensure that these delays are minimized as much as possible but delays are common. The Center for Applied Forensics is currently averaging 3 major crime scene responses a month. The scenes are generally complex, involving issues beyond the capabilities of the local investigating agency. The Center for Applied Forensics partners with law enforcement agencies in DeKalb, Cherokee, Etowah, Calhoun, Cleburne and St. Clair Counties to provide crime scene assistance. During the first quarter of calendar year 2016, January through March, CFAF responded to request for assistance by local law enforcement agencies a total of fourteen times. As an example, on January 15, 2016 CFAF personnel processed a homicide scene and 2 related secondary scenes on January 19, 2016 in Anniston, Alabama. Evidence was collected and reports were generated. Under the current method of preparing crime scene reports and handling evidence, it took a total of 79 calendar days to get a final report issued. This particular case was deemed "High Priority" and actually expedited. The Center for Applied Forensics currently tracks crime scene evidence by hand and is in the process of acquiring "Justice Trax" software and computer equipment to facilitate the management of crime scene evidence. Currently, less than 100 entities in the United States are accredited by either the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors (ASCLD) or ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB) formerly Forensic Quality Services (FQS) in the Crime Scene Discipline. There is not a single entity in the State of Alabama that has accreditation regarding crime scene examinations at this time. The Center for Applied Forensics is poised to become the first accredited entity in the State of Alabama in the Crime Scene Discipline. The acquisition of additional equipment to facilitate the documentation of a crime scene in electronic format should expedite the documentation, handling of evidence and issuance of crime scene reports as well as enable CFAF to begin the steps required to meet the criteria for accreditation.
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