Friday, September 15, 2006
Law Enforcement Officials Urge Governor to Address DNA Analysis Backlog
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Local law enforcement officials yesterday urged Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature to address the chronic backlog of DNA samples waiting to be analyzed and entered into a DNA database.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley and others held a joint press conference to bring awareness to the problem during the Fifth Annual DNA Awareness Week activities at California State University, Los Angeles, which will be home to the state-of-the-art Los Angeles Regional Crime Laboratory Facility, set to open in May 2007.
The three men agreed that the more-than-300,000-sample backlog is hampering law enforcement officials’ abilities to fully utilize DNA technology in the fight against crime.
“The analysis backlog is too severe for us to say we have a good grip on fighting crime.” Bratton said that almost one-half of Los Angeles murder suspects and 80 percent of rape suspects are not prosecuted due to lack of evidence. He said part of the problem is lack of funding at the state level.
California voters in 2004 overwhelmingly passed Proposition 69, which calls for all convicted felons to give DNA samples. Cooley called Proposition 69 “the best all-felon database law in the country.”
“It provides an opportunity to solve old cases and prevent the commission of the most serious of crimes by repeat or serial offenders,” he said.
But the number of samples collected has greatly exceeded the number expected when the measure passed. This, combined with a shortage of trained analysts at the California Department of Justice lab in Richmond, has created the backlog, the men said.
Bruce Harrington, who sponsored Proposition 69, said that part of the problem is the salary imbalance between what analysts earn at the state lab in Richmond and what other public and private labs pay. The pay at Richmond is 40 percent lower than what other labs pay, Harrington said.
“It takes nine months to train new personnel at Richmond, and then 70 percent are hired away within six months,” he added.
During the day’s activities, Baca was give the 2006 Individual DNA Awareness Award and Orange County officials received the team award. Harrington and activist Erin Runnian, whose daughter Samantha was kidnapped and brutally murdered by a sexual predator, presented the team award to Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Michael S. Carona and Irvine Police Chief David L. Maggard Jr.
State Sen. Charles Poochigian, R-Fresno, the Republican candidate for state attorney general, attended the forum and said, if elected, he would “make the backlog a very, very high priority.” Cooley said that Poochigian’s Democratic opponent in the attorney general race, Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, was also invited to the forum, but did not attend.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company