Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $353,284)
With this award the Hennepin County Sheriff – Forensic Science Lab intends to create additional pre-screening positions (2) to assist the DNA lab with collection of DNA from surfaces that potentially have touch DNA or body fluids. These support personnel will allow existing staff to dedicate their efforts to working on forensic DNA samples, while the support staff will take care of the initial evidence pre-processing steps. The technicians will receive training in proper collection procedures, documentation, report writing, courtroom testimony, concepts in forensic science and legal issues effecting the scientific examination of evidence. The forensic technician will focus on completing high volume, repetitive pre-processing procedures to prepare a forensic sample for subsequent DNA tests. Experience has shown this workflow will decrease the amount of time an item waits for the preprocessing step and decrease the overall turnaround time for the average case. We anticipate the time in queue for a DNA screening case to deacrease approximately 20% (~ 50 to 40 days). It is anticpated the DNA screeners will reduce the backlog of samples awaiting DNA pre-processing, increase the number of samples available for DNA analysts to move through the labs high throughput workflow, and produce more DNA profiles and correspondingly more profiles eligible for inclusion in CODIS.
Additionally, this award will assist the HCSO DNA Lab in meeting the goals of accreditation in continuing education requirements. Funds will be used to attend conferences and symposia with the goal of developing collaborations with colleagues and learn from subject matter experts in ways to advance technology and work toward DNA casework improvement projects.