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State of Rhode Island Forensic Science Improvement and Accreditation

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Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $296,966)

The University of Rhode Island State Crime Laboratory will use this grant to contract a Firearms examiner to reduce the Laboratory’s backlog of expended cartridge casings and projectiles. The backlog of expended cartridge casings and projectiles increased from zero cases in April of 2020 to over 280 cases in May of 2021. The increase in gun violence is a nation-wide problem and Rhode Island is not exempt. Providence experienced a mass shooting incident on May 13, 2021, and the homicide rate in Rhode Island for 2020 was double the weighted average of homicides over the previous five years. Contracting a qualified Firearms Examiner would serve to reduce the backlog of firearm examination cases within the Laboratory and would provide a bridge to place this position into the Laboratory’s FY2023 budget allocation. The Rhode Island Department of Health Forensic Sciences Laboratory (RIDOH-FSL) serves the entire state of Rhode Island. Agencies served include state and municipal police, the Office of the State Medical Examiner, Attorney General, and other law enforcement agencies. The Laboratories are accredited to ISO 17025:2017 standards by ANSI/ASQ National Accreditation Board LLC and undergoes external audits required by the FBI’s DNA Quality Assurance Standards. The RIDOH-FSL would utilize Coverdell funds to maintain accreditation status by our accrediting body, to pay travel and registration costs for trainings and conferences, to purchase a Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer (FTIR), and various accessories for working with dangerous opioids, and new PC’s. We propose to monitor effectiveness of backlog reduction through performance measures for illicit drugs, including opioids, and improvement in turnaround times because of this award. The RI Office of State Medical Examiners (OSME) jurisdiction encompasses all deaths within the state of RI. The office has been in its current location for over forty years and still has several pieces of major equipment are original to the building. To increase autopsy and radiography efficiency as well as biosafety, OSME is requesting funding to replace two key pieces of equipment that are in disrepair. It is anticipated that replacing the three main autopsy stations as well as our radiographic system floor plate will result in an outcome of improved workflow and efficiency of autopsies. Funding is also being requested for the annual NAME accreditation renewal fee.

Date Created: December 10, 2021