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DNA Backlog Reduction Strategy: Law Enforcement Agency Partnerships for a Successful Biological Screening Laboratory

NCJ Number
Date Published
8 pages
Cecelia A. Crouse; Tara Sessa; Julie Sikorsky; Dustin T. Yeatman; Crystal Conway; Caralee Daugherty; Jeri D. Ropero-Miller
Publication Type
Case Study
Grant Number(s)
2016-MU-BX-K110, 2009-DN-BX-K261
Based on the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office's Forensic Biology Unit's development of an innovative DNA backlog strategy in constructing and operating a centralized biological processing laboratory (BPL) within a law enforcement agency (the Boca Raton Police Services Department), this article summarizes the necessary considerations of location, construction, personnel, and services when constructing a BPL.
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. This paper provides a summary of the necessary considerations of location, construction, personnel, and services when constructing a BPL, and also provides a comparison of initial completion dates and ultimate completion dates over a 3-year period from 2016 to 2018. Three LEAs submitted 613 cases to the BPL commensurate with jurisdictional population. Performance metrics are reported, 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. 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 demonstrate 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 Created: July 20, 2021