Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $217,641)
The City of Aurora is requesting $250,000 on behalf of the Unified Metropolitan Forensic Crime Laboratory (UMFCL) for which it is the fiscal agent. The purpose of this request is to expand the testing and storage capacity of the Firearms Examination Unit, as well as provide training and overtime to reduce backlogs and facilitate timely case production. The UMFCL is an accredited regional laboratory that provides DNA analysis, firearms examination, questioned document examination, seized drug analysis, and latent print processing and examination. The UMFCL serves a population of over one million citizens. The mission of the UMFCL is to provide unbiased forensic services to the community, with quality and integrity, in order to support the judicial system.
Immediately after receiving accreditation, the UMFCL lost a firearms examiner to retirement, leaving current staffing at Firearms Examiner and one NIBIN Technician, with another Examiner in the process of being hired. Expediting the NIBIN imaging process will greatly increase not only the capacity and turnaround for NIBIN cases, but will reduce the time required of the trained examiners, allowing the unit to work more efficiently and increase the potential for Firearms Examinations. The installation of a safe and secure storage system for the firearms reference collection will allow for the required cataloging and tracking of materials, while allowing for the expansion of the collection to facilitate training in the future. Funding for training will allow for the addition of another qualified examiner to the unit, to further expand capacity and allow for improved services.
The lengthy opening and accreditation processes for the lab, as well as multiple vacant positions, created a backlog of cases in the Drug Analysis, Firearms, and Latent Print units. Drug cases are especially important because closing them will help identify and prosecute opioid and other narcotics traffickers. Increasing capacity in Firearms cases is crucial because local task forces are increasingly relying on firearms tracing to connect violent crimes to the most prolific offenders, so that we can get the most violent criminals off of the streets. The Latent Print Unit participates in casework across all types of crimes and allows for quick and cost-effective identification of perpetrators.
Forensic science is always advancing. It is critical that the scientists pursue continuing education to ensure they are providing top-quality analysis. Revenue shortfalls due to COVID-19 mean that the lab’s parent agencies do not have sufficient training budgets for the scientists.
The goals of this grant are to increase the capacity of the firearms unit through expedited NIBIN imaging and training of a new examiner, increasing the usable storage for the unit, and to increase case throughput for several units through the provision of overtime funding.