Sunday, September 23, 2012

Law enforcement coming to grips with new limits on DPS crime lab services

The Amarillo Globe News has more coverage of a sleeper issue that I'm surprised hasn't received more attention: DPS' recent decision to limit certain types of testing at their crime labs to reduce backlog volumes. Reported Aziza Musa ("DPS cuts evidence tests; changes could reduce convictions, DA says," Sept. 22):
The agency plans to implement the measure until labs can return results within 30 days, DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said.

But Farren said he anticipates demand will continue to grow, and forensic scientists won’t be able to keep up.

It’s a trend [Randall County DA James] Farren said he’s seen before.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, law enforcement agencies submitted all forensic evidence to FBI crime labs, causing backlogs and long delays, he said.

That’s when law enforcement agencies turned to local and state labs.

“And it took a while, but we’ve reached the same place,” he said.
In addition to blood alcohol and controlled substance testing, DPS also has restricted the amount of DNA testing it will perform, the Corpus Christi Caller Times had earlier reported, allowing only "only two DNA tests for each burglary offense and 10 for each homicide."

See earlier Grits coverage of the move, where I suggested that eventually DPS will be forced to shift to a fee for service model instead of providing "free" services to agencies that don't have their own crime labs. For many years the criminal justice system has operated as though money is no object, but that approach was never sustainable in the long term. DPS has overseen a massive recent expansion of crime lab capacity, but it's still insufficient to handle the volume of evidence sent to them. Even if the Lege gave them more money, it's doubtful they'll have resources to keep up with demand for crime lab services at the rates they've been rising.

1 comment:

ckikerintulia said...

DA Farren is a lock 'em all up kind of guy. He told a defense attorney that I am a Republic of Texas anti-government type. Nothing could be further from the truth. True, I was seeking a fair shake for a Republic of Texas anti-government defendant. I couldn't get past Farrren's secretary to talk to him about his misrepresentation of who I am. You might surmise from this comment that I am no fan of DA Farren.