Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $370,175)
The Kern County District Attorney’s Office - Forensic Science Division (Kern Regional Crime Laboratory) continues to make significant strides towards advancing the DNA technologies available at the laboratory, increasing the services provided, improving casework production, and reducing the backlog with the help of funding provided by the DNA Capacity Enhancement for Backlog Reduction Programs. From FY15/16 to present, the laboratory has successfully replaced several dated instruments, completed validations of both testing kits and instruments, and increased the DNA services available to include familial searching. Annually, the unit is averaging 600 completed cases, 2400 DNA samples processed, and over 200 profiles uploaded to CODIS. The current turnaround time for DNA requests is 96 days. The unit has operated with reduced staffing levels since the end of 2019. Additionally, COVID-19 has impacted our laboratory’s vendors, specifically Hamilton Robotics, which the laboratory depends on for consumables needed for the current robotics used during DNA analysis. Reduced staffing levels and the consumable shortage has negatively impacted the unit while the number of backlogged cases has steadily increased. The demand for DNA analysis has not slowed down and the unit is still impacted by requests for expedited DNA testing. The unit continues to strive for four main goals:
Work new cases as soon as possible with completion of all DNA cases within 60 days of receipt;
Reduce the backlog of cases to zero;
Maintain the increased productivity in the unit, which directly impacts our customer agencies and community of Kern County; and
Stay on the forefront of DNA technology and advancements by acquiring new instrumentation and methodology, validating these new systems and implementing them into our current workflow.
The laboratory requests grant funds for the Thermo Scientific TM KingFisher TM Presto automated purification system and full validation services from Life Technologies of the PrepFiler TM Automated Forensic Extraction kit on the Hamilton STARlet® Presto. Additionally, the full validation will encompass testing the SeqStudio Genetic Analyzer for implementation into the laboratory’s workflow. Grant funds are also being requested to purchase consumables associated with running all DNA casework samples, and funding for an additional forensic technician to help the unit with the increased demands. The laboratory relies heavily on grant funds to achieve the desired goals and is committed to better serving our customers and the citizens of Kern County through advancements and new technologies.