LANSING – A backlog at the DNA arm of the State Police Forensic Division
is hampering local law enforcement by slowing active investigations that depend
on DNA collected at crime scenes, according to a recent audit.
Officials from Monroe, Lapeer and Mackinac counties, among others, say the slow analysis of analyzed DNA evidence is causing them to delay arrests of suspects.
“Not all DNA forensic services were being completed in a timely manner,” the Auditor General’s report said. “The database is incomplete and, therefore, not effectively fulfilling its purpose to provide assistance to law enforcement agencies in investigating and solving crimes.”
The Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database – created in 1997 and used to match DNA from current cases to DNA stored from previously convicted criminals – is only 20 percent complete.
The report by the non-partisan investigative arm of the Legislature concluded that the backlog “may reduce the ability of law enforcement agencies to identify and prosecute offenders, which would result in crimes remaining unsolved and offenders remaining free.”
The report, however, said the forensic division as a whole – which is also responsible for drug analysis, fingerprint examination, polygraph testing and handwriting and firearm examination is generally effective.
DNA evidence is the wave of the future, said Lapeer County Detective Lt. Gary Partis, but ‘there definitely is a problem.”
“I haven’t seen anything fast with DNA, except on TV,” Partis added.
Partis isn’t the only detective who has problems with the current system.
“The average case takes quite a long turnaround,” said Monroe County Detective Sgt. Enrico Galimberti, noting that more serious cases, like homicides, take priority over non-violent offenses.
In Mackinac County, Prosecutor Clayton Graham said he’s been waiting for DNA to be analyzed from a summer 2002 rape case for over a year.
He can’t issue an arrest warrant without it, he said.
Monroe police officials continue to wait for DNA evidence from a 2002 burglary, said Galimberti. It doesn’t have priority at the Forensic Science Division because there are no suspects, though one could be matched with CODIS, he said.
“More money and resources need to be put into the system,” Galimberti said. “They need more funding.”
The new report agreed.
The department generates revenue from both general taxes and through court fees that convicted criminals pay. In total, other than possible federal grants, the money will amount to less than $3.2 million in 2004, not enough according to officials and the audit.
“These fees have not been a viable resource for funding forensic science operations,” the report stated.
The lag in the CODIS database worries investigators who say evidence collected at crime scenes can’t be matched with the system’s profiles. As a result, criminals can keep repeating crimes unless they’re caught through other avenues.
“There is more work than we have the staff to do,” acknowledged the director of the Lansing laboratory, Kathryn Maloney.
© 2003, Capital News Service, Michigan State University
School of Journalism
© 2003, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism