Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $1,182,830)
The forensic biology testing program at Dallas County’s Southwestern Institute of Forensic
Sciences provides evidence screening and DNA testing services to law enforcement agencies primarily in north-central and northeastern Texas. Effective 2019, Texas mandates completion of testing of all sexual assault kits with 90 days of collection. In response to this requirement and to the laboratory’s increasing backlogs and turn-around times in DNA testing, in 2019 the Dallas County Commissioner’s Court committed to a multi-year expansion of the Forensic Biology Unit, with the addition of twenty one (21) new forensic biology positions to the laboratory. This expansion plan will double the number of forensic biology staff. Also in anticipation of the 2019 changes to State requirements, the laboratory validated and implemented male DNA screening of sexual assault evidence as an efficient replacement to traditional serological testing methodologies. However, to bring the new technology of male screening online, the laboratory reallocated staff, space, and equipment resources from serology and DNA testing. In the first component of this project, existing administrative and laboratory spaces will be renovated to accommodate the expanded staffing and additional equipment associated with male screening of sexual assault kit evidence. This will allow for increased capacity and efficiency in evidence testing, report writing, and technical review. In the second component of this project, equipment will be procured and validated for use in the male screening program. Additional, grant funds will be used for supplies to train staff in male screening and DNA analysis, and to provide continuing education to staff. These projects will decrease forensic sample turnaround time by increasing the laboratory’s testing capacity, reducing bottlenecks in sample processing, and improving workflow. This will result in a reduction of case backlogs and improved ability of laboratory staff provide timely services to investigating agencies.