BCI slashes testing time on evidence
Jan 05, 2013 (The Columbus Dispatch - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
When Attorney General Mike DeWine took office in January 2011, he inherited a state crime lab where DNA test results took about four months to get in the hands of law enforcement and prosecutors.
Two years later, the DNA-test turnaround time at the Bureau of Criminal Investigation at London, Ohio, is down to about 20 days.
"This has been a major focus for us," DeWine said. "We are the lab for 90 percent of the law enforcement in this state. They can't go anywhere else.
"We're pleased with where we are. We're not satisfied. We're never satisfied," he said.
BCI, which is a branch of DeWine's office, also decreased the wait time on drug tests from 43 days to 10 and cut the time for making entries into the national evidence database from 24 days to eight. The lab gets an average of 155 "hits" per month on criminal inquiries entered into the database, which includes backgrounds on people who have committed crimes and DNA from unsolved crimes.
It was all done at a cost, however. The BCI lab budget jumped to $18.9 million this fiscal year, compared with $13.7 million in 2011, an increase of $5.2 million, or about 38 percent. DeWine said money was shifted to BCI from other sections of his office.
Much of the money, nearly $2.5 million, paid for additional personnel -- 49 new employees, including 24 scientists. The amount of robotic testing equipment also doubled.
DeWine said getting law enforcement and prosecutors critical test results six times faster is " sometimes a matter of life and death."
In high-priority cases, such as those involving multiple murders or a serial rapist, DNA tests can be completed in 72 hours.
The state lab provides services at no charge. Many larger cities have their own crime labs.
DeWine, a Republican, made improving the BCI lab a priority in his 2010 campaign against incumbent Democrat Richard Cordray.
DeWine brought in Tom Stickrath, former state public-safety director and assistant prisons director, as BCI superintendent. Stickrath mapped out the processing time for crime-scene evidence for DNA testing, paring it to 84 steps from 187.
BCI has employees in Richfield, Bowling Green, Youngstown and Athens, in addition to London.
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