Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $1,432,746)
The goal of the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory for the “FY 2022 DNA Capacity Enhancement for Backlog Reduction Program - Formula” grant is to maintain and supplement the nationally-recognized sample throughput efficiency while decreasing the number of backlogged DNA cases and significantly reducing turnaround time. The objective is to utilize the funds provided in this solicitation for the purchase of additional equipment, support of continued outsourcing of non-violent crime samples to vendor laboratories for backlog reduction, and maintain the enhanced laboratory capacity originating with the FY2012 Backlog Reduction grant in the salary and benefits of seven Forensic Biologist positions and the necessary kits for extraction, quantitation, and STR analysis by those analysts.
The Arkansas State Crime Laboratory is facing the challenge of an increased backlog over the last several years due to several causes. Efforts over many years have resulted in the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory achieving national recognition for efficiency with both funding and analyst capacity. Insufficient staffing due to turn-over and increasing submissions over time are the primary reasons for this trend. The State of Arkansas has enacted statutes which both direct investigating agencies to submit all Sexual Assault Kits for testing to the laboratory as well as direct the laboratory to conduct testing on those kits in an expedited manner. Other violent crimes are similarly prioritized by laboratory policy in consultation with investigating agencies and the courts. The challenge remains that even as new staff are hired and trained, existing analysts are forced to focus on violent crime samples at the exclusion of non-violent crime samples.
With this BJA FY 22 DNA-CEBR application (SI-171344), the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory is requesting funds to continue to maintain 7 DNA Analyst positions, including salaries, benefits, laboratory supplies, and continued training. Additionally, the laboratory is requesting funds to send backlogged non-violent crime samples to vendor laboratories while analysts remain in training. Last, the lab is requesting funds to replace or supplement laboratory equipment, as well as fully implement software to reduce analyst interpretation time and more efficiently capture relevant performance metrics with a goal of identifying areas for future efficiency improvement.