Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $390,479)
The Forensic Biology Unit (FBU) of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Crime Laboratory is responsible for analyzing evidentiary material associated with criminal investigations for over 28 municipalities, the school system and local Federal agencies as needed. As the primary agency conducting DNA analysis for Palm Beach County, it is of the utmost importance that the FBU provide efficient and timely processing of all requested evidence. In 2015 the FBU underwent an NIJ grant funded Lean Six Sigma project which initially identified the average monthly demand for DNA analysis as 51 cases. Now, six years later, the demand for DNA analysis has risen significantly to an average of 93 case requests per month (~82% increase) without a proportional increase in agency funded staffing. In addition, on July 1, 2016 FLA. STAT. § 943.326 (2016) went into effect, requiring the submission of sexual assault kit evidence to the laboratory within 30 days of receipt and the completion of testing and analysis of evidence within 120 days of laboratory submission. To address the increases in case demand, the FBU is proposing to continue the grant funding of two full-time Forensic Scientists whose responsibilities include evidence preservation and screening in preparation for downstream DNA analysis. In addition, the FBU would use funds to support its Rapid DNA program through the purchase of consumables and software as well as enter into several contractual relationships which would directly relate to improving laboratory efficiency and maintaining capacity through relevant trainings and validation support. Funds would also be used to replace aging computers as well as support the continuing education of staff as required by the FBI Quality Assurance Standards. The overarching goal of this proposal is to increase the FBU’s capacity to analyze forensic samples as well as to reduce sample turnaround times. The ability to increase a laboratory’s capacity is heavily reliant on maintaining trained staff dedicated to casework. Solid staffing levels ensure that the FBU maintains lower turnaround times and controls backlog growth. The citizens of Palm Beach County have been and will continue to be provided with fully validated technologies and methodologies in forensic DNA analysis in order to provide the highest quality casework and prevent DNA backlog growth. As a result of funding from this grant, the PBSO FBU expects to continue its quest to increase efficiency and reduce turnaround times by maintaining more full time staff available for casework analysis.