Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $270,302)
The Allegheny County Office of the Medical Examiner (ACOME) has successfully utilized vendor laboratories to outsource DNA processing in both sexual assaults and property crimes since 2016. These outsourcing efforts have been funded through multiple grant funding streams and through the budget of the ACOME, to ensure the reduction of the DNA backlog in Allegheny County and the continued growth of the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). Additionally, it has ensured that DNA casework was completed in a timely manner while other time intensive projects, such as validations and analyst training, continues to move the efficiency and technical capabilities of the ACOME forward. Over 230 profiles have been uploaded and over 100 investigational leads have been generated as a result of previous outsourcing efforts. While there have been numerous improvements to the Forensic Biology workflow using Lean Six Sigma principles, the intensive completion of the serological examinations has created a backlog of over 70 homicide cases with DNA analysis assignments. For many of those cases, CODIS could potentially provide valuable investigative leads, once the DNA data is generated. While these cases are more complex than those outsourced in the past, the ACOME has proven the benefit of using a vendor laboratory to complete fast and efficient processing of DNA samples, which ensures the completion of many backlogged cases within a short period of time.
Additional resources of supplies and overtime will be dedicated to the processing of cases that do not require investigative leads, as well as sexual assault kits (SAKs) and other cases that have scheduled court dates, by the ACOME Forensic Biology staff.
The ACOME Forensic Biology Section is in the process of establishing probabilistic genotyping as a method of data analysis. The staff must be adequately prepared to transition to this more efficient method of data analysis. In an effort to alleviate the impact on casework, utilizing the external training resources for this purpose will ensure that continued technological advancements occur for the ACOME, while not negatively impacting the backlog.
The ACOME projects a 24-month project period (October 1, 2021 to September 30, 2023) and a budget of $270,302.00 for the proposed program. Expected results from this program include the outsourcing of homicide cases for DNA, training of scientists in the use of probabilistic genotyping software, and application of overtime funds and reagents to complete additional casework.