Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $404,188)
The Rhode Island Department of Health Forensic Sciences Laboratory (RIDOH-FSL) serves the entire state of Rhode Island, with a population of approximately 1.06 million. Agencies served include state and municipal police, the Office of the State Medical Examiner, Attorney General, and other law enforcement agencies. The laboratory is divided into four sections: Drug Chemistry, Forensic Toxicology, Breath Analysis, and Forensic Biology/CODIS. The Laboratory is the sole Forensic DNA laboratory, NDIS participant, CODIS site in the state, and casework is submitted by more than 40 stakeholders. Database collections are carried out by RIDOH-FSL staff at the RI Adult Corrections Institution, and a separate probation collection office. Violent crime arrestee samples are collected by law enforcement personnel. The Laboratory is accredited to ISO 17025:2017 standards by ANSI/ASQ National Accreditation Board LLC, and undergoes external audits every two years as required by the FBI’s DNA Quality Assurance Standards.
The federal funding from this award will help achieve the following goals:
a) Reduce the forensic DNA case backlog by funding one full time Senior Forensic Scientist and one Forensic Scientist at 100% to process DNA casework, in addition to overtime for all qualified DNA analysts.
b) Increase the capacity of the laboratory in casework with the purchase of a Qiagen BSD600 Ascent punch, a Crime-Light x5 Alternate Light Source (ALS), removal of 2 chemical fume hoods to increase laboratory space.
c) Provide continuing education and training opportunities to comply with QAS standards.
The RIDOH-FSL expects to reduce the DNA casework backlog by at least 125 cases, and to be able to process incoming cases within an average 90-day time frame for non-violent crimes and 30 days for violent crimes, assuming no changes in staff or workload. One complicating factor is that the COVID-19 pandemic may impact services. We believe that making the long-term investment in personnel will increase the overall efficiency of our laboratory, thereby reducing the backlog of DNA casework.