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DNA backlog reduction strategy: Law enforcement agency partnerships for a successful biological screening laboratory

NCJ Number
Forensic Science International: Synergy Volume: 2 Dated: 2020 Pages: 24-31
Date Published
8 pages

This article summarizes the necessary considerations of location, construction, personnel, and services when constructing a biological screening laboratory (BPL), and it compares initial completion dates and ultimate completion dates over a three-year period from 2016 to 2018. 


In 2009, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Forensic Biology Unit developed an innovative DNA backlog strategy to construct and operate a centralized biological processing laboratory (BPL) within a law enforcement agency, the Boca Raton Police Services Department. The BPL became fully operational in 2012 and obtained accreditation in 2017. This coordinated, multi-agency agreement resulted in a streamlined process, exemplifying several benefits such as communicating timely testing results, decreasing the case turnaround time, and decreasing the DNA case backlog. Three LEAs submitted 613 cases to the BPL commensurate with jurisdictional population. Performance metrics such as types and number of criminal cases screened; the number of samples forwarded for PBSO DNA testing; the turnaround time to handle, screen, or analyze a forensic sample; evidentiary samples; and the number of profiles entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database are reported; for example, prior to this DNA backlog reduction strategy, the FBU was taking an average of 153 days to handle, screen, or analyze a forensic sample from submission to final report, and there was a backlog of 679 cases. From 2016 to 2018, the total average turnaround time for BPL decreased from 30.5 to 19.6 days, (35.8-percent decrease); and the FBU Request turnaround time decreased from 153 to 80 days (35-percent decrease). Monitoring laboratory metrics demonstrated the efficacy of the DNA backlog reduction strategy. There are several takeaway lessons from this experience, including (1) engaging legal counsel early to outline necessary legal procedures and the timeline; (2) bringing all stakeholders “to the table” early to discuss expectations, as well as legal and operational responsibilities; and (3) creating a realistic timeline as well as establishing a comprehensive memorandum of understanding by which all parties understand their roles and responsibilities. Understanding laboratory and non-laboratory policy issues is critical to implementation success and the efficacy of a BPL as a DNA backlog reduction strategy. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2020