Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $500,000)
The Niagara County Sheriff’s Office Forensic Laboratory is struggling under the burden of caseloads that are, once again, increasing to pre-pandemic levels. Since 2017, with the increasing number of overdose deaths, Toxicology – Postmortem caseload has increased 45% and Firearms caseload has increased 126%.
In addition to the challenges associated with increasing caseloads, additional demands continue to stress the resources of the laboratory. These include, but are not limited to emerging drug trends, new method development, personnel training, maintaining ANAB accreditation, and maintaining/ making accessible the documentation for the New York law enacted in 2020 that redefined the materials required to be provided by the laboratory for discovery purposes on all laboratory cases.
LIMS System Upgrade
In order to address these demands, the laboratory began evaluating resources available commercially to increase laboratory efficiency. The laboratory is currently considered 100% paper-based. Upgrading the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) to be able to streamline workflow processes is vital to addressing backlog, increasing timeliness and reducing errors in the Lab. An on-premises system is the most cost-effective way to transform the lab from a paper based system prone to errors and inefficiencies to a streamlined, modern way to process and track workflow in the lab.
Barcode labelling improves tracking of evidence, data collection and management (e.g. audit trails), helps streamline inventory management and sharply decreases human errors.
Property Management system is anticipated to add significant time savings to the laboratory.
Reagent Tracking Discipline-specific “recipes” can be created on how to make the solutions necessary in any lab analysis.
Electronic laboratory notebook with The Laboratory and Case Management Module - The Case Management allows organization of all aspects of the case from persons involved, case contacts, tests and reports, attachments, etc. This will allow the creation of the data packet for Discovery purposes to be easily prepared.
Forensic Intelligence – The ability to gather statistics and additional data allows for a time savings in reporting for Grants and sharing critical data with other agencies.
Niagara County realized the need for a new position in Biology/DNA. Last December, this position was filled with an experienced analyst and, with that new addition, there is a need for a new Biology Microscope.
Travel to Conferences
Funds are requested to pay for seven (7) individuals to continue their education. Conferences under consideration include SOFT, AAFS, ISHI, and a Latent Print Examiners course for 2 individuals.