Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $293,954)
The New Mexico Department of Public Safety (NMDPS) is seeking $293,954.00 in federal funding from the Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grants Program to facilitate the improvement of the quality and timeliness of statewide forensic science and medical examiner/coroner’s office services. The NMDPS’ FY22 Paul Coverdell Base Formula proposes to eliminate forensic backlog and provide forensic training for New Mexico. This will directly impact the participating New Mexico forensic laboratories’ abilities to provide training to forensic laboratory staff and work toward the elimination of forensic case backlogs.
The NMDPS coordinates with the four (4) partnering laboratories serving the state of New Mexico’s forensic service needs, including the NMDPS Forensic Laboratories Bureau (FLB), the Albuquerque Police Metropolitan Forensic Science Center (APD Crime Laboratory), the New Mexico Department of Health Scientific Laboratory Division (SLD), and the University of New Mexico’s Office of the Medical Investigator (OMI). Members of this working alliance meet annually to identify joint priorities that culminate in the Statewide Forensic Science Services Plan for Forensic Laboratory Enhancements. The goals and objectives of the partners in this formulary grant proposal reflect the findings and recommendations of the 2022 Statewide Forensic Science Services Plan.
Together through a collaborative effort, the partners have identified the following joint priorities within the 2022 Statewide Forensic Science Services Plan for forensic laboratory enhancements: 1) the alliance agreed that maintaining qualified staff is essential to the process of enhancing New Mexico’s capacity to manage the backlog and expected future increases in forensic cases, therefore, the partnership has identified a vital need for funding to support the training and education required for (re)certification of Forensic Examiners; 2) there is an existing need for strategic overtime for current laboratory professionals to handle backlog cases, including those caused by increasing demand for services from rural municipalities across the state; 3) SLD has a critical need to validate the testing of more compounds and chemicals to better serve its stakeholders (including OMI); and 4) there is a need for outsourced toxicology testing to support accurate death certification and surveillance of new public health and public safety challenges to maintain accreditation and to reduce waiting times for families and law enforcement.