Department of Justice grant dollars to bring in new forensic scientist
By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press
Scottsdale Chief of Police Jeff Walther is securing Department of Justice grant funds in an effort to provide expert evaluation of evidence as well as work toward ending the “backlogged” cases pending on DNA analysis — both the result of crime within municipal bounds and the adjacent Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
“As technology advances, the ability to extract DNA samples from items that were previously eliminated from processing increases, resulting in an increase in submitted items (samples) to be processed by examiners,” Chief Walther said in his report to City Council.
“The advancement in technology and number of cases submitted to the lab is not necessarily the challenge for the DNA Unit. The challenge is analyzing the number of submitted cases with the goal to begin the process within 30 days of submittal, which is best practice. While the number of DNA cases submitted to the lab continues to increase, so does the number of backlogged DNA cases.”
Chief Walther explains to the local governing board the capacity to process DNA evidence is more crucial today to aiding police officials.
“The Scottsdale Police Department Crime Laboratory is responsible for the analysis of evidentiary material associated with criminal activity within the city of Scottsdale and Salt River Indian Community for investigative purposes,” he said of the basic function. “The DNA Unit is in charge of screening physical (evidential) items and the DNA analysis of biological evidence.”
Chief Walther says the amount of “backlogged” at the end of calendar year 2021 remains “exceptionally high.”
“A DNA case is considered “backlogged” if analysis does not begin within 30 days,” he explained of the preferred nomenclature. “At the end of calendar year 2021, the number of cases backlogged remains exceptionally high.”
Numbers show cases awaiting DNA analysis at the Scottsdale crime laboratory are:
- 2018 — 53 cases
- 2019 — 194 cases
- 2020 — 176 cases
- 2021 — 290 cases
Scottsdale City Council Thursday, July 7, approved the pursuit of the Department of Justice backlog reduction program formula grant, which should provide a $249,804 shot in the arm to help shoulder administrative costs of delivering quicker results.
Chief Walther reports acceptance of the grant will result in the employment of one temporary FTE forensic scientist.
“The Department of Justice capacity enhancement and backlog reduction program is a formula grant program,” Chief Walther said. “The department will continue to apply for and receive the formula grant each year to support the temporary/grant funded position. In the event funding is no longer available, the department will look for alternative funding. If alternative funding is not found, the position will be eliminated. Approval of the grant will reduce the backlog of DNA cases waiting to be analyzed and provide a balance of workload for all DNA scientists.”