Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2017, $1,559,282)
The Washington State Patrol through the Crime Laboratory Division is responsible for analyzing evidential material associated with criminal investigations for all state and local law enforcement agencies and medical examiners within the state.
Under state law (RCW 43.43.756) the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory Division (WSPCLD) is the established public provider of Forensic DNA services in Washington State. There are 5 casework DNA laboratories located throughout the state: Seattle, Tacoma, Marysville, Vancouver and Spokane. The CODIS database lab is also located in the same Seattle facility as the Crime Lab.
The 2015 sexual assault kit (SAK) DNA testing state law (SHB1068) that came into effect on July 1, 2015 expanded the DNA testing eligibility of sexual assault kits (SAK). This resulted in a consistent 70-80% increase in new SAK submissions causing a 53% overall increase in total case requests received. There are also an estimated 6000 previously unsubmitted SAK cases across the state at law enforcement agencies that are now eligible for testing. With the additional mandates the backlog of all types of DNA cases is rapidly increasing. Furthermore, the change to expanded CODIS loci STR kits has increased the amount of data to interpret (16 loci to 27 loci) causing an increase in the amount of time the analyst spends per case.
There are between 15 to 20 new Unidentified Human Remains (UHR) cases in Washington State annually. Previously the testing has been done at the University of North Texas under their NIJ funding. This program has come to an end. Consequently, this year the focus of our application will be on outsourcing cases. This will help mitigate the effects of increased SAK case submissions, and compensate for the loss of the UHR outsourcing case resource.
As proposed also in the project plan, WSPCLD will maintain grant funded positions to retain current staff and overtime work. The funding of the IT4 specialist, 3 lab technicians and creation of a new IT4 position for LIMS DNA data management will help address the chronic staff shortage to provide WSPCLD DNA services. The overtime for casework DNA analysts will allow more cases to be completed than could be done during regular hours. The project plan includes an external DNA QAS audit in 2019. This will be required for WSPCLD to remain a NDIS participating laboratory.
The expected result of utilizing overtime funded by this award is that more than 50 additional case requests will be completed. The expected result of outsourcing of backlogged DNA cases is that an additional 264 cases will be completed. The expected result of outsourcing Unidentified Human Remains cases is that about 17 cases will be completed. Although the backlog will still increase because of the increased SAK submissions, the WSPCLD expects to keep the mean turnaround time as short as possible. The outsourcing will help reduce the backlog of cases and will provide DNA analysis service for Unidentified Human Remains cases. The added IT support will help with the management of outsourced cases and backlogged cases.