Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2018, $1,521,670)
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 five 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.
Despite increased analyst productivity both the backlog and turnaround time of all categories of cases increased appreciably in 2017; 3,168 to 4,562 pending case requests and 83 days to 208 days turnaround time. The number of new case requests received in 2017 (5,197) remained almost as high as in 2016 (5,804). This was substantially higher than the 3,695 case requests received in 2015. This is a result of the 2015 sexual assault kit (SAK) DNA testing law and the 2016 victims of sex crimes law, which led to an increase in SAK submissions.
The scope of this proposal is to 1) equip a high throughput DNA lab in the Vancouver Crime Laboratory to increase the capacity of the WSPCLD for SAK DNA analysis; and 2) minimize the impact of the increased workload on the DNA laboratories to maintain the highest possible quality of Forensic DNA testing while keeping up with advances in the field. This will be achieved through four goals: 1) staff new DNA section in Vancouver Crime Lab specializing in Sexual Assault Kit cases to help meet the increase in service demand; 2) maintain and increase the capacity of the WSPCLD casework and Database laboratories through overtime funding, retention of existing positions, and purchasing equipment; 3) maintain continuing education for casework and database analysts; and 4) develop expertise in probabilistic approaches for interpreting and reporting DNA results to include the sub-categories of human identification. Unless the overall capacity of WSPCLD to analyze SAK DNA cases can be substantially increased the backlog and turnaround time for all cases will continue to increase. The FFY18 WSPCLD budget does not allow for the expenditures requested in this proposal.
Without an NIJ award, the capacity of WSPCLD laboratories to process, record, screen, and analyze forensic DNA and DNA database samples will fail to satisfy current service demands.