Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $844,632)
DNA CASEWORK Prior to the start of 2020, the DNA section of the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s Scientific Analysis Bureau (SAB) was trending in a positive direction. With updated instrumentation and the implementation of more efficient sample processing, the backlog of cases pending a DNA analysis was at an all-time low and turnaround times were improving for all offense types. However, 2020 proved to be exceptionally challenging for the SAB Unit for reasons that extended beyond those attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to Department mandates which limited staffing levels to no more than 50%, the SAB was forced to immediately develop procedures which facilitated remote case collaboration as well as implement technology that gave analysts the ability to complete casework from home. Many analysts had reduced hours and, thus lower productivity, due to sickness, exposure or childcare related issues. In addition to these pandemic-related challenges, the DNA Unit continues to battle attrition as five fully trained DNA analysts, within the last year and a half, have either retired or left the Department for higher paying positions at other laboratories. To mitigate the negative impact of attrition as well as assist the DNA Unit as they transition back to normal schedules and refocus ongoing efforts to improve the quality of analyses and process efficiency, the SAB is seeking funding to accomplish the following: Hire additional staffing. Upgrade instrument computers and software to be compatible with Windows 10 and laboratory paperless processing efforts. Provide necessary training to both DNA Casework and Database analysts as required by the FBI QAS. Update antiquated or unreliable instrumentation and equipment. DNA DATABASE The real time backlog of the Database Unit stands at approximately 400 samples with zero cases older than 30 days. Moving forward, the challenges for the Database Unit will be maintaining this low backlog while: Completing validation of a new Rapid DNA instrument Working to identify samples that have not been lawfully collected and correcting database entries in anticipation of future Rapid booking stations Dealing with the loss of a forensic services technician to the promotional process Funding from the twenty-four-month period of this grant request would be utilized to accomplish the following goals: Maintain a zero backlog of DNA database samples by funding a Forensic Services Technician. Upgrade computers and software for genetic analyzers in order to allow full integration with paperless processes.