Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $621,597)
The West Virginia State Police Forensic Laboratory (WVSPFL) operates one centralized forensic DNA laboratory throughout the state and is the agency which is responsible for analyzing evidential material associated with criminal investigations for all state and local law enforcement agencies within the state of West Virginia. The West Virginia State Code Chapter 15, Section 2B designates the WVSPFL as the agency responsible for the upload of DNA profiles obtained from individuals convicted of certain crimes in the state to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).
The West Virginia State Police has limited discretionary funds to address the needs of seven disciplines within the laboratory. Therefore, funding through the CEBR program will enable the WVSPFL to fulfill mandated continuing education requirements for DNA analysts as well as maintain the capabilities of the laboratory by funding certain calibration and validation services and equipment needs. As a byproduct, the limited State Police budget can be used to address the needs of the remaining disciplines of the laboratory.
The DNA laboratory continues to experience bottlenecks with the analysis and technical review of forensic DNA and DNA database samples. The funding through the CEBR program will enable the WVSPFL to continue the employment of five forensic DNA scientists to assist with working backlogged DNA cases and database samples. It will also allow for the laboratory to continue the contract with a former employee to assist with technical reviews. These measures will help combat the various bottlenecks within the laboratory and as a byproduct, decrease the backlog and turnaround time of forensic DNA and DNA database samples.
The WV legislative commission for Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) proposed and received passage on legislation that all sexual assault kits collected at the hospitals throughout the state be directly submitted to the WVSPFL. This direct submission legislation went into effect June 2020 and is expected to increase the number of forensic biology cases received annually by 200. The funds from this grant will allow the purchase needed equipment and cover staffing costs needed to process these additional sexual assault cases in order to prevent an increase in the backlog.