Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2017, $436,114)
The West Virginia State Police Forensic Laboratory (WVSPFL) operates one centralized forensic DNA casework laboratory throughout the state and is the agency which is responsible for analyzing evidential material associated with criminal investigations for all state and local law enforcement agencies within the state of West Virginia.
The West Virginia State Code Chapter 15, Section 2B designates the WVSPFL as the agency responsible for the upload of DNA profiles obtained from individuals convicted of certain crimes in the state to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).
The WVSPFL is currently transitioning from outsourcing convicted offender samples to providing the service in-house. The NIJ funding through this grant will allow for continued employment of both a database evidence technician and a database analyst to reduce the turnaround time of samples submitted to the laboratory and uploaded to CODIS. As a byproduct of this reduced turnaround time, the WVSPFL anticipates a higher hit rate among forensic DNA cases, leading to an increase in investigative leads.
Due to current budgetary and staffing constraints, the laboratory continues to experience bottlenecks with the analysis and technical review of forensic DNA cases as well as an increase in the backlog and turnaround time. The NIJ funding through this grant will enable the WVSPFL to continue the employment of an additional forensic DNA analyst, provide overtime funds for current analyst to perform various components of the DNA testing process as well as allow the laboratory to outsource non-violent cases. The laboratory is also planning to utilize grant funding to purchase equipment to assist with the analysis of sexual assault samples.
All of these measures will help combat the various bottlenecks within the laboratory and as a byproduct, decrease the backlog of forensic DNA cases awaiting analysis as well as increase turnaround time for the availability of DNA results.
The West Virginia State Police has limited discretionary funds to address the needs of seven disciplines within the laboratory. Therefore, the NIJ funding through this grant will enable the WVSPFL to fulfill mandated continuing education requirements for DNA analysts as well as maintain the capabilities of the laboratory by funding certain calibration and validation services. As a byproduct, the limited State Police funds can be used to address the needs of the remaining disciplines of the laboratory.