DNA backlog grows at LAPD due to staffing shortfalls

09:41, January 17, 2010      

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For staffing shortfalls caused by lack of funding, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has failed to eliminate a backlog of untested DNA evidence from rape cases, a newspaper report said on Saturday.

A chronic staffing shortfalls in the LAPD's crime laboratory had led to a massive backup of evidence, forcing the LAPD to aggressively ship the backlogged DNA samples to private labs, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Faced with an unrelenting fiscal crisis, Los Angeles city officials have refused to hire needed analysts for the laboratory, hampering a plan to eliminate the backlog, the paper noted.

Last spring, despite a near freeze on all city hiring, the City Council set aside 1.4 million dollars to hire 26 staffers for the LAPD lab and cover their salaries for about six months.

Sixteen people were hired when the plan was announced, but 36 more were needed before the lab would be capable of handling the constant demands for testing of evidence, police officials were quoted as saying.

Until sufficient staffing levels were met, the lab would not be able to keep pace with the workload and the backlog would persist, they said.

Despite the council's allocation for 26 new hires, the police lab was stymied repeatedly as police officials sought the funds and permission needed from the City Hall bureaucracy to begin the hiring.

In recent weeks, a panel of city officials that must approve hiring during the ongoing fiscal emergency notified the LAPD that its request had been rejected, seemingly quashing hope that the hires might still be made, according to the paper.

Federal law mandates that LAPD analysts must upload the DNA profiles into state databases for comparison with those of felons. At the time of the audit, 1,100 pieces of evidence were waiting to be uploaded. That number has since grown to more than 1,700, said Yvette Sanchez-Owens, who oversees the LAPD lab.

"This is a direct threat to public safety," said Gail Abarbanel, director of the Rape Treatment Center at Santa Monica- UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) Medical Center. "It means leaving rapists on the streets of our city."

Source: Xinhua
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