Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $3,468,953)
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), as mandated by Chapter 943 Florida Statutes, operates a statewide forensic crime laboratory system to provide timely, expert, and professional examination of evidentiary materials to aid in the investigation, prosecution, and/or exclusion of criminal offenses in the state of Florida. The Biology/DNA needs of Florida’s criminal justice community are serviced by a network of FDLE laboratories and five local laboratories that comprise the Florida crime laboratory system. FDLE operates six laboratories, accredited to international standards for quality, that provide Biology/ DNA analysis services.
The heavy demand for Biology services continued in 2021, with over 17,400 Biology service requests completed. The large volume of cases is attributed to a number of factors including Florida’s population of 22 million residents and continued high volume of reported crime. Noting a transition from UCR to NIBRS, violent crime in Florida for January through June 2021 reached a minimum of 39,793 incidents (FDLE, 2022, Crime in Florida, Semi-Annual Report, Jan-Jun 2021).
With funding provided under this award, the FDLE plans to achieve a reduction in the forensic DNA case backlog, increase laboratory capacity, and enhance the DNA analysis throughput of caseworking labs.
In order to reduce the DNA case backlog and increase laboratory capacity, the FDLE will fund overtime to be used for in-house casework, as well as outsource casework to private accredited laboratories. DNA analysis throughput will be increased by funding overtime for laboratory personnel and employing six full time temporary Forensic Technologists / Administrative Assistants for case management. Without these positions, case management duties to include triage and general administrative support would fall to case working analysts, which would then negatively impact throughput and capacity. The FDLE will purchase essential consumables for DNA testing and entry into CODIS, as well as required training for analyst trainees and continuing education for qualified analysts. Funding for equipment to replace or add to validated platforms is requested in order to continue the Agency’s goal of laboratory capacity enhancement.
By focusing the project on personnel costs, training, supplies, equipment, and the outsourcing of casework, the FDLE hopes to greatly improve the timeliness and quality of forensic services while addressing and preventing a backlog of Biology casework.