Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2017, $558,734)
The AZ DPS SAB is currently experiencing budget deficiencies, staffing shortages associated with both hiring freezes and attrition, process delay associated with the recent attention on backlogged sex assault kits, and a steady incline in the submission of forensic DNA evidence.
Over the past two years, the SAB has been successful in improving the efficiency of processes associated with the analysis of DNA evidence, primarily in sexual assault and property crimes cases. However, although analyses have become more efficient, there is still a considerable backlog of cases which needs to be addressed before these efficiencies will have a significant and consistent impact on the turnaround time for cases.
While major changes have been made to the way the SAB triages and processes cases and samples, there are still many opportunities for more detailed improvement in specific areas of analyses, including the initial serological examination of evidence.
Additionally, while the costs associated with analyzing samples for DNA has been steadily increasing, the appropriated budget for SAB DNA operations has remained stagnant over the past few years. Without legislative funding to compensate for the expenses associated with the increase in fees for basic supplies, as well as costs associated with technological improvements, the SAB must rely on grant funding to supplement basic operations. Therefore, the funding from the twenty-four month period of this grant request would be utilized to accomplish the following goals:
- Continue to fund a casework lab technician and two database lab technicians, previously funded under the FY16 grant, in order to allow DNA casework and database analysts to focus their efforts on processing case samples. Laboratory technicians will also be used to assist with the preparation of know standards in order to help expedite that process and help ensure standards are completed prior to, or concurrent with, the analysis of case samples.
- Fund the purchase of supplies to sustain DNA operations in all three regional laboratories. Currently, based on individual laboratory backlogs, cases are being reassigned to regional laboratories as a means of equilibrating the backlog and improving turnaround times. Funds from this award will be used to offset the costs associated with the increase in productivity.
- Fund supplies and additional equipment needed to address the consistent increase in the submission of evidence for biological examination.
- Fund equipment which will expedite the process of screening evidence for the presence of biological stains as well as aid serologists in conducting more thorough serological examinations.
- Fund the purchase of specific equipment which will prevent process bottlenecking due to a lack of available instrumentation. The specific equipment being requested will aid in the efficient processing of cases from other regional SAB laboratories and may be utilized for the analysis of rush samples when instrumentation is unavailable or unreasonable for processing individual samples.
- Outsource current cases older than 60 days. While the SAB has worked to improve case management and the efficiency of analytical processes, there remains a substantial backlog of cases which are preventing the Laboratory from achieving an ultimate goal of a 60 day turnaround time for DNA analyses. Funds from this grant will be used to reduce, or eliminate, this backlog by outsourcing older cases which cannot be effectively and immediately analyzed with current staffing levels and resources.