Despite backlog, crime lab unlikely to get funding boost

Posted July 2, 2014

— Major backlogs in the State Crime Lab keep growing because of a shortage of DNA analysts and scientists who test blood in drunken driving cases, state Attorney General Roy Cooper has said, and the delays have caused some criminal charges to be dismissed.

"This is a matter of public safety," Cooper said recently.

The crime lab's DNA analysis division gets 3,300 cases a year, many with multiple pieces of evidence. According to the state Department of Justice, it would take 55 analysts to test that DNA in a timely manner, but the lab has only 24.

"There's very good reason to be concerned," said Rep. Justin Burr, R-Stanly.

The crime lab asked for 119 new positions since 2007, but lawmakers have funded only 40. This year's House budget reflects that trend, initially including 10 new positions but willing to cut it to two in negotiations.

"Can we fix it in one year? The answer is no, but I think, over time, as we have the ability to, it's something we can chip away at," Burr said.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said he is more concerned with paying lab analysts than hiring new ones.

"I think it would be foolish for us to create additional positions if we can't fill the positions we have," Berger said, citing the high turnover among analysts because of below-market pay. "I think there may be a need to look at the pay structure for the analysts and a modification of the pay structure."

The House this week passed legislation that would allow analysts to testify in court cases via videoconferencing, which would cut their travel time out of the office. But no money has been included in any budget proposal to pay for the equipment to make that possible.

Last year, analysts spent the equivalent of 70 working weeks in court and not in the lab.


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  • Jordy Jul 3, 2014

    Politics aside, how is this possible. I have a close friend that has been waiting for over two (2) years to receive tests results regarding a alleged DWI/DUI. The courts have continued the case six (6) times and refuse to dismiss it. If the system is so poorly staffed or led how can any results be considered accurate?

  • disgusted2010 Jul 3, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Cooper would 1) have to ask for additional funding, 2) actually care about law enforcement (other than to further HIS political agenda).

    This is a fluff story to further Cooper's campaign as he is WRAL's darling.

  • miseem Jul 3, 2014

    Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said he is more concerned with paying lab analysts than hiring new ones
    Obviously never heard of multi tasking. It should not be a major feat to upgrade that lab position to a higher salary, and the NCGA would not be doing anything other than requiring it be done. And they could at least start to increase staff by adding back the 8 positions they cut, or better still, increase it to a total of 15 or 20, with hiring starting after the positions were upgraded. Creating a position does not mean it has, or can, be filled immediately. They could also provide funds to the western lab so they can start performing more tests.

  • lewiskr45 Jul 3, 2014

    View quoted thread

    And yet it's still not fixed...

  • Billy Smith Jul 2, 2014
    user avatar

    Just another problem the Democrats left for the Republicans to fix.

  • archmaker Jul 2, 2014

    The general assembly will never fund the crime lab as long as it is under Cooper's control and he is running for governor. They wouldn't be able to complain that it's broke if they tried to fix anything.