NIJ Audio Transcript: Making Sense of the DNA Backlog
Moderator: Mark Nelson, Senior Program Manager, Investigative and Forensic Sciences Division, Office of Science and Technology, National Institute of Justice
- Kevin Lothridge, Chief Executive Officer, National Forensic Science Technology Center, Largo, Fla.
- Kevin J. Strom, Senior Research Scientist, Crime, Violence, and Justice Research Program, RTI International, Research Triangle Park, N.C.
- Greg Matheson, Director, Los Angeles Police Department Criminalistics Laboratory, Los Angeles, Calif.
Mark Nelson: Well, good afternoon. Welcome to the panel on "Making Sense of Backlogs." I'm Mark Nelson. I'm a DNA program manager at NIJ. I share those responsibilities with my partner, Min Nguyen. We have a distinguished panel here for you today. I'm gonna try to set the stage a little bit for why we're having this panel.
NIJ often receives requests from policymakers, press, media asking for what is the national backlog. And in the past, we've been relying on studies — national study has been done in 2003. The most recent national study was by BJS in 2005. That is now published. So in 2007, we initiated two surveys to take a look at this issue. I want to point out that both of these are still in peer review or going into peer review, and so all results that you hear of those two surveys will be preliminary in nature.
We want to address some of the issues with backlogs and dispel some of the myths. For example, I received a request from an individual who wanted to know why there was still a national backlog of DNA cases when we had funded a quarter of a million dollars to date at the President’s DNA Initiative, why were they still there. And I think folks have the misconception …
Can you — I guess I'm gonna have to lean forward. Is that better? OK.
There's a misconception of what a backlog really is, and I want to set the stage for you. If you have a laboratory that's done 50 percent more cases this year than it did last year, we'd all say that's really good. They've made real progress. They've increased their capacity. But if their demand has gone up by 50 percent, their backlog won't go away. It's only when the capacity increase is greater than the backlog that — or the demand that you’re going to have a decrease in the backlog.
So we're going to talk today. We're going to have three panelists. Our first is Kevin Strom. Kevin is a senior research scientist with the Crime, Violence, and Justice Program at RTI, and his interests are in law enforcement responses to the community violence, as well as forensic science effects on the criminal justice system. He's led numerous studies for the Department of Justice, including studies determining the nature of forensic case backlogs among the law enforcement agencies, forensic labs and medical examiners offices. Kevin will be speaking about the survey that RTI has done of law enforcement cases that have not been submitted to crime laboratories.
Our second panelist will be discussing the impact of increasing demands and a huge increase in his particular demand on his crime laboratory. Our second speaker will be Greg Matheson, who's the director of the Los Angeles Police Department Crime Lab. He's been with the lab as a criminalist supervisor and manager for 30 years. And I'm going to have to read this part: He's core qualified in toxicology, serology, crime scenes, explosives, flammable liquids and vehicle lamp filaments. Obviously, he's very well qualified. He served on the board of directors for the CAC, California Association of Crime Lab Directors, ASCLD, American Board of Criminalistics and is a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.
Our third speaker will be speaking about case backlogs in crime laboratories, as well as an overview perspective. He's very well qualified to do that. It's Kevin Lothridge. He's the CEO of the NFSTC. And in 2007, NFSTC won a competitive process to become the NIJ Center for Forensic Excellence. Previous to being the CEO, Kevin has been a chemist, a chief chemist, lab director, and although he’s trained as a forensic chemist, he's acquired expertise in other areas, such as drug chemistry and fire debris analysis. And he's the past president of the American Society of Crime Lab Directors.
We're gonna hold all questions until the end of the panel, and I'll call on Kevin to start us off. Kevin Strom.
Kevin Strom: Thank you. Good afternoon. Today I'm going to be talking about a survey of law enforcement forensic evidence processing that RTI has conducted on behalf of NIJ. As Mark mentioned, these findings are preliminary. The final report is currently under peer review with NIJ.
And, just a quick overview of this. As many of you can imagine, this is not easy information to obtain. Law enforcement agencies — many don't, don't have record management systems that readily allow you to extract information on cases that contain forensic evidence but that were never went to the laboratory. And that was really our main goal here. So it was a challenging, challenging initiative, but I think we have some results that can, hopefully, move the field forward, especially as we learn about this issue.
Just a little bit about forensic backlogs in general. As many of you know, more evidence is being collected from a forensic perspective than can really be managed at forensic crime laboratories. And most of that information to this point has relied on the laboratory side of things to establish this backlog. In 2002, BJS conducted a census of crime laboratories and reported upwards of 260,000 backlog cases. An update in 2005 showed that that number in that time period had increased 24 percent, and those backlogs typically extend across all forms of evidence, including drug chemistry.
The sole initiative to look at sort of the other side of the fence of the backlog problem — and those are cases that really never left law enforcement but that contained some forensic evidence and could have potentially moved forward from an investigative perspective if they were analyzed — was conducted in 2002 in an NIJ national survey of state and local law enforcement agencies. And that survey estimated that there were 50,000, 52,000 unsolved homicides and 169,000 unsolved rapes that contained biological evidence that were not submitted for analysis to a crime laboratory. An additional 264,000 property cases were estimated to not have gone to the lab as well.
So in 2007, RTI was funded by NIJ to conduct the current survey. The current survey was different in that we were focused on all forms of forensic evidence, not just DNA. Our focus again, though, was on state and local law enforcement that investigated crimes as part of their regular processes. So we excluded, for example, sheriff's offices that only had jurisdiction over courts and jails. Primary objective was to estimate the number of unsolved violent homicide and rape cases and property cases that contained some form of evidence but that did not go to the crime laboratory, also the types of forensic evidence associated in these cases for violence, and the capabilities and procedures in law enforcement agencies for processing, submitting and retaining evidence.
It was a national survey, as I mentioned. We used a methodology similar to the LEMAS Survey, the BJS LEMAS Survey. Our final sample was over 3,000 state and local law enforcement agencies, and we used a multimode data collection approach, including Web mail, fax and telephone follow-up. The nature of the responses — the nature of the questions didn't really allow for conducting the survey on the phone very easily. So the phone was mainly used to follow up with agencies and discuss any problems they had with submitting the survey. Often the survey required coordination within the law enforcement agency from investigations, crime analysis, research and planning, and property and evidence.
We had a very distinguished panel of experts from forensic science, law enforcement, research, some of whom are in the room today, that assisted with the development of the survey instrument and even follow-up with specific agencies. And, of course, NIJ provided critical guidance and also helped obtaining letters of support, including a letter from the IACP.
In terms of response rates, overall, especially with a survey that was challenging for many law enforcement agencies, I think we did pretty well. We had a 73 percent response rate. Those responses were highest for large agencies, those with 100 or more sworn officers or those with 50 to 99 officers, and lowest for the very small agencies, which was not a surprise considering their often limited resources.
Responses were also highest for municipal police departments and lowest for state police agencies. In some cases state police agencies were challenged because of the decentralized nature of some of their units. We did get a fairly good response rate on the Web, which was promising, and by hard copy. Those were really the two primary methods used to respond. We also ran a help desk, so that allowed agencies to contact us if they had problems or to coordinate responses within the agency itself.
This is just a screen shot of the public version of the Web site which allowed for password control and the ability to track responses over time.
So in terms of the results, overall we … These are defined as cases, again, that were unsolved, so open cases that had not been closed by arrests or by exceptional means that contained some form of forensic evidence but that were never sent to the forensic lab for processing. And we asked about questions over the previous five years. The expert panel and others thought that asking within a longer period of time would be extremely challenging for law enforcement agencies to answer and to approximate.
So what did the results show? Overall, we estimated for homicides about nearly 4,000 homicides over this period that met that criteria. In other words, about 14 percent of unsolved cases were never sent to the crime lab for testing. For rapes, about 27,500 cases, or about 18 percent. And then, of course, for property crimes, because of the sheer volume, more than 5 million, so 23 percent of unsolved property cases with evidence were never submitted to the crime lab for analysis.
So what types of evidence were associated with these cases? Well, for violent crimes, homicide and rape, about a third involved DNA evidence, which suggests that with additional testing, some proportion of these cases could have moved forward, about 20 percent of all trace evidence or latent prints and 18 percent firearms or tool mark evidence.
In terms of agency characteristics, I think some could assume that this is a problem only specific to large agencies. And in fact, large agencies, those over 100 or more sworn, did account for a sizable proportion of the unsolved and unanalyzed homicide cases. But the story was a little bit different for rape. About 6 out of 10 originated with those largest agencies, but smaller agencies did account for a larger proportion of rape cases than for homicides. So I think it's important to understand this and design policies that don't just allow for resources and perhaps procedural changes to large agencies but also those smaller agencies.
By agency type, municipal police departments accounted for about 4 out of 5 and slightly lower percentages of unsolved rapes. And sheriff's departments accounted for about 18 percent of both. In terms of state police, about 1 in 10 of backlogged rape cases originated with state police agencies where they had primary jurisdiction.
So what were some common factors for not submitting evidence? We asked agencies to list all of these and list the most common or the primary inhibiting factor for not submitting evidence. More than half of agencies indicated they had not submitted evidence because no suspect had been identified. About 3 out of 10 were uncertain where to send the evidence, and some issues also pertained to prosecution, the agency looking to the prosecutor for guidance. About 14 percent indicated a suspect had been identified but not formally charged and 18 percent reported that the analysis had not been formally requested by the prosecutor.
Laboratory resource and timeliness issues were also cited. An inability of the laboratory to produce timely results, at least in the opinion of the agency was cited in 13 percent; insufficient funding for analysis in 11 percent; and the fact that the laboratory would not accept evidence due to backlog issues for 8 percent of the inhibiting factors.
We also asked about evidence retention. One issue was do agencies have a policy for retaining DNA evidence for closed cases. Less than half of agencies reported they had such a policy in place either because of a state, state statute or because of an agency-specific guideline. One in 5 reported they were unsure if their agency had such a policy. But, but when a policy did exist, it ultimately fell upon an investigating agency to store and maintain this evidence, 8 out of 10.
Law enforcement are also overwhelmingly responsible for retaining evidence for unsolved cases. They were responsible for, in more than 9 out of 10 cases, for storing this evidence on site in a storage location.
So what are some implications? One is that, obviously, these data indicate that these substantial forensic backlogs continue to exist in law enforcement agencies. Nearly 1 in 7 unsolved homicide cases, 1 in solve, unsolved rape cases, and 1 in 4 property cases were not submitted to a forensic laboratory for analysis.
And these backlogs are not limited to only large agencies, they also impact those that are smaller and even the very small agency.
One of the things that comes out of this study is the implication that more training, even though substantial training and funding has gone out to agencies to close cases and to move more forensic evidence through the system, more could be done to improve awareness among investigators, law enforcement officials about the need to rapidly move evidence, including DNA evidence, through the system, including enhanced policies that require submission under many circumstances.
Some U.S. law enforcement agencies continue to have the mindset that forensic evidence is beneficial primarily for prosecuting crimes and not as a primary means for developing new leads. And I think some of our presenters will talk a little bit more about that.
Another critical finding is that law enforcement information systems need to be enhanced so that they can systematically track and monitor forensic evidence in criminal cases. Many of the agencies struggled to respond to this survey for that very reason, and I think agencies have also struggled to really, over time, track how this issue was affecting their agency and what cases need to be moved forward in a timely manner. More than 4 in 10 agencies responding to the survey reported that they had no computerized system in place with this ability, and even those that reported they did, it's unclear really what the capacity of those systems was.
More guidelines and resources are also required for evidence processing and retaining evidence in agencies, but these policies must take note and count the resources available to law enforcement, both for evidence storage and for reviewing and analyzing cases.
As an aside, we also did ask about internal capacity for agencies for some nonlaboratory staff within law enforcement agencies for things like latent prints. About 4 in 10 reported they had staff that regularly conducted those activities, and about 20 percent of those reported those staff were currently experiencing a case backlog. So these things are not only affecting information going out of the law enforcement agency in the laboratories but also the ability of the agency to process evidence internally.
The other issue is the ability to improve, improve the ability for police agencies to track, to track and discard evidence that is no longer required and maintained by law. I think this was a critical issue. In many cases, agencies are retaining evidence for long periods of time because, really, they're unsure what they can safely discard of when, and for that reason many evidence storage rooms are filled with evidence that may not, may no longer need to be kept.
I guess a final implication is just the need to coordinate and develop a prioritization system for getting evidence efficiently through the system. You know, we've heard a lot of — or at least fairly new information about the potential for analyzing property crime cases, but you can see by the sheer volume, 5 million really backlogged property cases, that adding those into the system without really some type of prioritization of those could result in further problems. So I think communicating across law enforcement, prosecutors and laboratories but also prioritization of cases that need to move through more rapidly is a needed next step.
Greg Matheson: Good afternoon. My part of this presentation of "Making Sense of the DNA Backlog" is to share with you the LAPD experience or what I also like to call it "or what happens when your backlog increases by 1,700 percent overnight."
Matheson: Before I get started on this, I do want to thank NIJ for the opportunity to share this with you, and I also want to thank the Marriott Hotel because, for all of you that may have issues with your budget and office supplies, they've been leaving pens around and notepads. It’s going to make our office supply budget go just a little bit further.
Matheson: So if you haven't caught onto that, grab them.
So. I want to do a little background on the city of Los Angeles, obviously located in the southern portion of southern California. We have an officially counted population of about 4.1 million. I anticipate it's probably a little bit higher than that. We cover 468 square miles. There's a potential for a lot of crime within that area with that many people.
The interesting thing is that our crime rate is actually the lowest it's been since the 1960s, and our request rate and our number of submissions has never been higher. So it kind of shows me that what we do as a community is becoming more important, and we're being involved more and more in the investigation of crimes.
A little on our laboratory. Our total staff right now is 171 people. That consists of 117 criminalists and other analysts, plus 54 support, and I consider support on both sides of the analysts. The supervisors and managers are support to the criminalists and the analysts, along with clerical and whatever technical support we have below 'em. Out of that 171 staff, as of today 60 are in our biology or serology DNA unit.
So I start off with our definition of a backlog. Historically and in almost all of our units still, it's just a request for analysis for which a report has not yet been issued. I figure as soon as a report is made, a request is made of our laboratory, it goes into the backlog because who knows when it's going to get done. Some are done the same day. Some may be sitting a year or more before it happens. And that's how we've always considered our backlog of cases that we had to work. And a lot is based on the decisions that are made on the backlog number.
To give you an idea of just backlog in general across the lab … The one thing I do want to point out is the serology DNA number does not include the increase of sexual assault cases, which is the main crux to this talk. But if you scan down those numbers — I mean, here we are talking about mainly DNA backlogs — there's a number there that jumps out pretty significantly of another unit that maybe could use a little bit of attention in dealing with our backlog, and that's our firearms analysis unit at 3,388 cases.
I was at a meeting not too, a while back, and we were talking about resources, and our assistant laboratory director that manages the firearms unit walked out of that meeting a little bit frustrated going, doesn't anybody care if anybody gets shot in this city? Because the resources are all going to DNA, and they obviously have a need, too. My answer to her is unfortunately right now, no, they don't. They want to know about the DNA. Now, if they were shot in association with a rape, there's a good chance that that firearms work might get done on that. But the reality is we're dealing with DNA and biological evidence.
This reminds me. I was going to give a disclaimer at the beginning regarding the numbers that are up here. I'm talking in broad terms. Every number I give up there is accurate at some point in time.
Matheson: But if you try and do the math, you know, if you remember a number before and say that doesn't add up, that's the way this works. They change constantly. It was an education process for our politicians — it sometimes took, sometimes didn't — wondering why are we giving them all these different numbers when they think they're asking the same question. Well, if they ask it today, it's going to be different than yesterday or the week before. So it's just the reality of the process we're dealing with.
So the crux to this mainly is the rape kit evidence. We have a combined kit in the county of Los Angeles. Both the city Los Angeles Police Department and the Sheriff's Department uses the same kit. A lot of the collection sites overlap. So it makes life easier for them, but obviously, the LAPD — the ones that occur in the city of Los Angeles come to us. The ones that occur everywhere else in the county go to the county lab.
Our storage conditions is we have, I think it's, nine, permanently built-in freezers that range anywhere from 15 by 30 up to about 60 by 30 that are in different locations, most of them in one, but there's a couple different locations. We also have an additional, I think it's, seven or eight freezer trucks that are leased. We store at this point every piece of biological evidence that comes into the possession of the laboratory in the freezer, and we've been doing that since about 2002.
So the pictures that I have here, and some you'll see later, are pulled directly out of the media because they've come in, and everybody wants to take a picture of all the unanalyzed rape kits that are in all of our freezers. Well, they're shooting everything, obviously, not just the rape kits. But it makes for a good graphic for them.
So we had a change in our serology/DNA backlog definition. This was a policy change or a political change. We talked a little bit about it at the end of the last session, but our new definition, when it comes to rape cases, is all sexual assault kits that are collected by the department for which a final report has not yet been issued. The detectives no longer have any discretion as to whether or not they request a kit to be made. They prioritize 'em for us, so we know what the important ones or the ones that require a faster turnaround time is, but they no longer make requests. Every kit that exists in our backlog, every kit that is collected within the city limits will become part of our backlog.
The only exception to that — and this is still up in the air — are kits that are collected where it's determined not to be associated with a crime. We're arguing the fact that if we can't load it into CODIS, why do we want to analyze it? There's that one has yet to be completely decided, but that's currently what we're standing by.
So the serology/DNA backlog — oh, there it is, prior — again, this is about two years ago, but prior to our rape kit backlog definition change, we counted a backlog of 444 cases. That was both the rape kits and other biological evidence analysis that was requested by the detectives. After the rape kit analysis — or the backlog definition change, overnight we are sitting at about 7,500 or about a 1,700 percent increase. I hope I did the math right, but the numbers sound really scary. I was going to say good, but it was an amazing change, and we had to give some serious thought to how we were going to deal with this significant change in our backlog.
So why did the backlog definition change? Victim advocates groups got involved. Among those, primarily were the Santa Monica Rape Treatment Center or (inaudible) very, very strong in our city, very influential when it comes to this type of both collection and analysis. The Human Rights Watch got involved; I'll be talking a little bit more about them. The Hollywood Chapter of NOW was the most recent addition to this group; now they're very, very involved. The National Association for Women. Obviously, the media jumped in; that's how the victim advocates get their point across or were able to get it across. And politicians. This is not necessarily in any order because they kept … You know, it would come up in a variety of different ways.
The Human Rights Watch in March 2009 came out with a report they called "Testing Justice: The Rape Kit Backlog in Los Angeles City and County," a very comprehensive report. They were working on it for easily more than a year. We became very well acquainted with many of the members associated, as did the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. And then they submitted this significant report. It's very, very long. It deals with the issue.
One of the things that I want to point out, we had a member of the Human Rights Watch speak recently at a California Association of Crime Laboratory Directors meeting. And the point that they wanted to make very clear is they're just starting in Los Angeles. Basically she looked around the room at all the different lab directors from California and said we will be coming to your lab next. I anticipate they will be going nationwide at some point because this is a significant issue to them. So be prepared. They are, as a rule, very fair about what they do, and we had a pretty good working relationship with them.
But one of the things … Don't you hate slides that just have huge amounts of writing on it? Don't worry about it. The point I wanted to make is in some respects they really get it. They weren't just attacking the lab for not getting the work done. They were very concerned about the fact that this is a combined issue. "For rape victims," I'm going to read a couple parts of it.
"For rape victims to have access to justice, policymakers and law enforcement officials in Los Angeles County will need to test every booked rape kit. But their responsibility doesn't end there. Law enforcement, in collaboration with rape treatment providers, with the support of elected officials, will need to create systems to ensure that every reported rape case is thoroughly investigated and, when appropriate, leads to the arrest of those responsible." They get that it's a whole system problem, and the crime lab is just one little piece of it.
"The remedy will require a comprehensive plan that's made known to the public, compliance with existing laws, and swift and efficient action. This is a necessary part of the core governmental obligation to protect victims of sexual violence and promote public safety."
The media, obviously, also gets involved a lot locally. They started off with a number of articles saying about how far we were behind in processing the cases. I love this one, "LAPD Rape Kit Debacle Continues." But then it starts shifting a little bit and saying that, OK, we're going to clear them all by 2010. That was, I think, a really good projection until kind of the economy fell out of things and the money that's going to be available to do it may or may not be there. We'll see. But we were shooting to have the backlog eliminated by mid-2010.
And then finally, "A Solution for LAPD's Rape Kit Backlog Announced." We have been working our way through this, and they don't always just write nasty articles about us. So occasionally there are good things.
The politicians. The head of our Public Safety Committee, City Councilman Jack Weiss, was a strong proponent of this. He goes back in his efforts to get us resources many, many, many years, long before Human Rights Watch came into play, long before the Santa Monica Rape Treatment Center. And in fact, over the last couple of years, he's given us $350,000 out of his private office account or discretionary fund, or whatever the council members have, to work on some of the rape kits.
Our city controller, Laura Chick, also audited the whole issue and came up with a not-so-flattering report. She calls for the city to end rape kit backlog once and for all. Again, an awful lot of it points at the laboratory, but she was pretty … pointed her finger a lot at both the department as a whole and the city as a whole for not providing the support, the council for not providing the support in the past.
I think one of the interesting things about this is because, you know, we all tend to take things personally, and they say nasty things about a job we should be doing, and we haven't done it. The day after her report came out, I was sitting in the airport getting ready to fly out to Sacramento, and I got a call from her on my cell phone. And we had met in the past. I had no clue how she got my cell phone number, but she did. Basically not apologizing but saying, I hope you're not taking this personally. I really want to help you out. It was just nice having her understand that.
So why weren't the cases requested originally? Well, the detective mind set regarding sexual assault investigations changed over the years. I mean, I've been … Talking about the dinosaurs, I mean, I was doing serology work back in the early 80s and late 70s, and at that point no hospital wanted to take a rape victim. They would sit in the emergency room for hours on end waiting to be, have their, their evidence collected. It was a nightmare. Detectives didn't want to handle it. It was relegated to a small part of the department.
Obviously, things have changed. The SAR programs, or the SANE programs, the evidence being collected is significantly better than it used to be, and the detectives are coming around understanding that this is an important case that needs to be investigated. When the California Cold Hit Program came out, which was in about 2001, 2002 and I met with a bunch of detectives at that point, some of the less enlightened ones said, well, if you get hits, we're going to have to do more work. You know, what are you doing this for? Obviously, that's changing somewhat, but this explains why they weren't requesting them.
They also had the mindset regarding comparison versus, you know, answering it. People did not … well, prior to CODIS becoming the level that it is now, we would discourage a request to be made for a kit unless they had a suspect in custody, unless we had something to compare it to because it was still more of a prosecutorial tool or confirming what they already knew. Now it's a investigative tool.
Detectives would self-triage the cases. They wouldn't make a request because they knew we had limited resources, and they wanted to make sure that the really important one we'd get around to. So they just didn't request a lot of them.
And obviously, our laboratory resources, even if they did request them, at the time we couldn't have done the analysis.
So … oh well. In late December of 2008, the part of our department that we were moved to, which was the Detective Bureau, decided they wanted to know exactly how many kits were in the freezers. Up to that point, we were calculating them by a means that left a lot to be desired. So the chief of detectives said we're going to find out exactly how many kits are in the freezer, and he ended up getting 50 detectives over about a two-week period — they spent in the neighborhood of about 2,000 hours — with parkas on and notepads looking at every item of evidence in those dozen-plus freezers that we have to determine how many rape kits or sexual assault kits were in the freezer.
What they found was there were 11,077 rape kits that were currently in the freezer; 48 percent of them had already been analyzed. I thought that was really good. And 52 percent had not been analyzed. So now we had a firm number. That 7,000-plus was calculated. We now know that we had just under 5,200 kits that actually had not been analyzed.
Of the 5,200 that were not analyzed, you can see how they broke down. One of the reasons that some weren't analyzed, 23 percent of them were cleared by arrest. Why request the analysis if it's already been determined who did the crime? Thirty-six percent were cleared "other," or most of those were D.A. rejects. They take and file, you know, take 'em to file. The D.A. would reject them. Why do the analysis at that point? "Investigation continued" was a big chunk, and then 770 were not eligible for CODIS upload, which was great because we immediately dropped our backlog by that 770.
Let's look at the "investigation continued." We had 70 percent were known suspects that they were still looking for, they were doing the investigation on.
But the important one is this middle one, 29 percent stranger crimes. We had, I believe it was, three detectives who were doing nothing but looking up those 5,000-plus cases to find out what the status of them, and they were saying out of these 402, they're looking at this going, why didn't the detective request it? So that really was a situation where the detective fell down on the ball. So really, from our standpoint, I think we really kind of dropped the ball on only 402 out of the 5,000-plus. Those are the ones where we should have been being hammered for because those should have been collected.
But there are reasons to do those other ones. Maybe a D.A. reject wouldn't be a D.A. reject if we analyzed it, uploaded it, and found it hit to another case. And there's a lot of reasons out there to analyze kits, and we aren't currently doing it.
So how can the laboratory respond to a big change in the backlog definition?
You know, the first thing is you get defensive. It's not our fault. You know, we only did what we were being asked for, you know. Go away. Don't bother us with this sort of stuff.
The next thing is argue the necessity of the case. Well, why do all of them? You don't need to. It isn't needed for investigation. You know, we can come up with a lot of reasons why we don't want to do this work.
Finally, you might want to embrace the opportunity, and I'll get into how that's worked for us.
I went through three of those. I mean, I think that my position on analyzing these kits has changed significantly over the last two to three years because I've become educated on what all is involved in the cases and what can come out of it.
So backlog versus resources. How do you determine your resource needs within it? You know, we now have a major difference in the backlog, but let's take a look at it. There's different ways of doing it. We used to always do it based on the request for work. You knew approximately how many requests you had coming into the laboratory. If you weren't getting 'em done, you'd go to the city council or whoever it was, ask for more resources based on what you were being asked to do. That's how we always did it before.
You could do it based on what you think you'll get in the budget. I mean, there were times when we knew that the city budget was going to be poor, so we didn't ask for a lot, even though we needed it. The problem with that is when the budget gets good again, they say, well, why didn't you ask for it before? If you didn't ask for it before, you don't really need it now, so I'm not going to give it to you. So you always ask for it.
Finally, you do it based on potential workload. Had we been asking for resources in the past when there was a policy change, and our backlog went from 444 up to 7,000-plus, you know, maybe we would have said our potential backlog or our potential workload is 7,000 cases, and maybe 10 years ago we would have started asking for more resources based on that. It probably wouldn't have gone anywhere, but who knows?
So finally, we know we got to do it. We've got these kits. We have to get it analyzed. So I had to develop a backlog-elimination plan. I'll go through the overview of it real quick and then go into specifics.
First, identify the workload. Backlog is any case coming in that hasn't been analyzed. So you got to take into account your new including, new cases.
Determine your capacity, how many you can get out internally and externally. We did a lot of outsourcing, by the way. We do DNA in-house, but we do a lot of outsourcing.
Identify the funding that's available for it.
Identify other resource needs, such as we rely on our property division to move the evidence around. We rely on detectives to do what they're supposed to do. Our success is based on a lot of other areas, and they're prepared to constantly revise the plan.
So when we're talking about backlog, ours was determined by the hand-count that the detectives did. However, we got new cases coming in all the time. That's going to change depending on the crime rate trends, the number of cases that are being reported. As we heard earlier, I mean, as we know, many of them are not reported. Well, what if all of a sudden, because we're getting more hits, and we're doing the work, everybody starts reporting or more people start reporting? That's going to change our new cases, which is going to throw off the plan.
Technology changes. Sometimes we'll get a new technology that allows us to analyze kits out to a week later or something. That's going to change the number of cases coming in.
And obviously, political changes will change the amount of cases that you have.
So just to give you an idea of what our historical average, if were basing it on the requests that we receive for analysis, you can see that from 2004 through roughly 2006, it stays constant and then it starts rising. So basically we've seen a 63 percent increase in requests for analysis in five years. Ignore the fact that we're being told now to do all the kits, requested or not. Just our requests went up that much. So if you're planning on figuring out how or the resources you need, you have to take that into consideration.
You've got to determine the capacity internal. You have to look at the individuals, how much they can do. Look at average unit productivity levels and figure out how many cases you can get out the door. The number of analysts you have may or may not – or it may change. As you'll see, ours changed significantly.
Technology changes. They become more efficient usually. You can get more cases out the door. Or a new technology comes along and all of a sudden everybody is less efficient. You know, all these things have to be considered and taken into effect or you throw a lot of disclaimers into your plan so they know that it's not necessarily going to be accurate.
Like I mentioned, we do a lot of outsourcing. The capacity of the different contract laboratories we use are changing constantly depending on other contracts they have, what else is happening in the rest of the country.
So looking at internal staff capacity, in fiscal years '07-'08, we received 13, 15 new positions for the unit alone. In fiscal year '08-'09, we received 16 more positions. This is all coming in because of – OK, where is it? There. In the next fiscal year, which is amazing considering what the whole fiscal situation is, we're supposed to get 20 more criminalists and a lab tech. So in the City of Los Angeles in the next fiscal year, there's only two job classes that are being allowed to hire: criminalists associated or staff associated with DNA and police officers. That's throughout the whole city.
Laboratory growth due to the rape kit. We went from 140 in 2007 to 171. We're going to go to 192 people in the lab next year. In the serology/DNA unit, we've gone from 28 to 81 in the last five years. Significant growth in internal capacity.
Funding for this project, backlog elimination. We will have received about $5 million in general funds – federal grants, about $2 million. Thank you, NIJ. Donations, which is an interesting funding source when it comes to police work. So far, we've had about $1 million and it's continuing to come in. The donations have come from the Los Angeles Police Foundation, the Hollywood NOW is out there and other civic groups.
Regarding the Police Foundation, they have a Web site up and circled up there is a button that says "donate now." So if somebody is on their Web site, they receive donations from individuals, you know, $20, $30, $40, up to large groups that have given us – one group has given us a half a million dollars towards this one topic, elimination of our backlog of sexual assault cases. That goes to embracing the opportunities.
We could continue to argue this forever, but we've received a lot of resources because of the bad press that this situation has received. I'm sure the city of L.A. isn't any different than most of your jurisdictions. The reality is they work on crisis, and this was a crisis that became a political issue. And we are embracing it for everything we can to grow the laboratory to meet the needs.
Identifying other resource needs. Like I mentioned, we rely on a variety of both internal and external groups.
You need a grant coordinator to handle all the grants coming in.
Contracts. We are dealing with four companies right now and the contracts change on a regular basis.
And I know none of you have problems with your IT group. You get always what you want right away. Yeah. They're interesting. They have held us up a couple of times.
Reconsider, re-evaluate, revise, revise, revise the plan constantly. Workload changes. Capacity changes. Funding could increase or decrease. It has gone up. It's gone down. They find more money. They tell us to increase our amount. The next day they figure, "oops, we didn't mean that. It's less." The number is all over the board. So you have to set up a way of dealing with every change that comes along.
Another little bit, but this is just an example of a portion of the spreadsheet that I used to both predict when we'd get done. We don't have a laser pointer. But if you look up there, the left-hand column is we know where we started at a certain point in time. We know how much money we had. We know what our backlog was, and you work your way down. By adding in the number of new cases that you estimate will come in the door each month, the amount of money that's going to be used on other types of contracting, the amount of kits that you expect to send out — all of these are estimations at the beginning of this program — you can figure out approximately how long it will take, given the cost. Any of those factors can be changed, and it will adjust the top number. You know when you're going to run out of money by, if you insert higher numbers of kits that are going out the door. You know roughly when the backlog is going to be eliminated.
On our current plan, our current spending, we're looking to be done with the backlog of the 4,000-plus kits by the end of the next fiscal year. But it's been a great tool for both predicting and then tracking whether or not you're keeping up with your plan.
Current status. We have a backlog of 4,786 kits. Since we started dealing with that outsourcing, which was only last September, October, we've outsourced almost 2,700 kits. This is where the math doesn't work, if you remember some of the other numbers, because our backlog … You know, you'd think if you've got a fixed point in time and you counted every kit that's in there, that number should stay the same, go down as you get them done. They find more. I mean, it's just … it was an interesting process.
Like I mentioned, you have to take into account the new rape kits that are coming in the door. So far in 2009, we've been averaging about 26 per week. That's the number of sexual assault kits that are collected associated with crimes in the city of Los Angeles.
Then the next question is — we get this a lot. You're asking for all these people to eliminate your backlog. When the backlog is gone, you know, gone, what are you going to do with them? Well, I can think of something. We might use them for quicker turnaround, more cold cases completed. Maybe we can find more of our detectives that committed crimes 20 years ago.
Matheson: For those of you who have heard about that case.
Obviously, we're going to be analyzing every new sexual assault that comes in the door, and we want to do it without outsourcing. We've been outsourcing DNA now for 21, 22 years and would really like to be able to do them in house.
Obviously, we also want to move on to doing more property crimes. We were involved in the NIJ program on that, on the burglaries and DNA. Amazingly effective tool when you're dealing with property crimes like that.
Finally, I find it interesting that … Keep in mind — all of our caseload is request driven except for the sexual assault kits. So everything, we know what our backlog is when it comes to all of the rest of 'em because they're the requests that we have received for analysis.
But what if suddenly somebody comes along, like they've asked, what about all the rest of this biological evidence you have in your freezers associated with homicides? Shouldn't that all be analyzed too? Well, they recently went through and determined that right now there are 42,927 items that are frozen storage that are associated with homicide evidence. We all know all of that is not probative or informative when it comes to the investigation of a crime, but you never know when somebody is going to come along and say, do it anyway. And boy, look at the resources we can get out of that if they force us to consider doing all of the homicide evidence.
And that's it. Thank you very much.
Kevin Lothridge: If you don't have enough pens, we have NamUs pens right outside the door. So we'll help your budgets also.
Before I get started, I'd like to thank everybody in here for filling out the survey that we did, and we're in the draft phase of the first report to go into NIJ. As in all things, no good deed goes unpunished. I think the reason we got the work is we're really good naggers. We, we kind of call everybody up. And it's kind of the same as Kevin was saying. You know, you have to work together to get this data, and I think we've been doing it for a long time.
Those of you who are old like Greg in the room remember that we did workload surveys for ASCLD years and years and years ago, and they kind of dropped us. And now we're doing all different kinds of data collection. But I would like to thank everybody because it's not easy. If you look at what Greg had to do to get the data that he was required because it was driven, those are some of the same questions people in your agencies ask you every day. And it's not just about one type of evidence. It's about all types of evidence.
And as we go through here, I'm going to talk to you in generalities about the study we did because it is not final. It's preliminary.
I'm also going to apply a personal story at the end and really kind of try to tell a story. I think we do a really good job. We have numbers. We have charts. We have slides up there with lots of things that people can't read. But it's very difficult for people that aren't in the laboratory on a day-to-day basis to make some understanding of that information. They think it should just be done.
Greg made a good point. I think Kevin made a good point. When you take a measurement at one point in time, it's kind of like the wood pile. You think if you take pieces of wood out, it goes away at some point in time, where our wood pile just keeps getting bigger and bigger. It changes because of things that happen. So it is something that's important to remember.
So what's the issue? We know that there's been tons and tons of public attention on the funding that's been provided to the DNA backlog. I think, Mark, you said somebody called you and wanted to know why it wasn't done. Well, there's lots of reasons for that.
And we also have to look at what are the future demands, not just in one section but all the sections. If you look at what Kevin put up there, it looks like we're already 50 percent in the hole in capacity across the board for different types of analysis.
The considerable attention we've paid to this — it's been great. However, there's still evidence awaiting and having delays. I mean, following up Greg, I can't say it any better than he did. He's actually got the numbers. He's in the trenches, and he's actually in the freezer in the parka it looks like.
Why does this backlog exist when we have put capacity to it? It's because it's always changing. There are resource implications, new technology, new rules, new laws, new collection types. And really, the programs that have been developed have tried to look at the DNA backlog and tried to make efficiencies and enhance capacity. But as that's gone on, the desire, the need and the requests for analysis continues to increase.
The study? We did this at the same time that RTI did this for the law enforcement evidence. It's to provide an update on the nature and extent of backlogs in the nation's publicly funded state and local crime laboratories providing DNA analysis.
I was fortunate enough to work with the BJS studies in 2002 and 2005 where, as many of you know, I called you until you filled it out. And we really did the same thing here. We're really trying to provide information not on just the size of the backlog, but also what are the levels of demand. Is the capacity truly there that we think is there? And what's the reliance on funding and, in this case, federal funding?
I think I've not seen anybody present it as well as Greg just did as far as what resources have been put in from the general funds to the federal funds, and I think a novel approach is the donations. That's actually pretty amazing.
And this is still a work in progress. As with all OJP reports, it must undergo peer review. Once the peer review is final, the report will be delivered to NIJ.
What was the methodology? We actually went and looked at all publicly funded crime laboratories and the laboratories accredited by ASCLD and Forensic Quality Services International, the same ones surveyed through the BJA Census of Publicly Funded Crime Labs in 2005. And the final pool of respondents was limited to those laboratories that were accredited and operating DNA analysis programs at that time. We did not look at any federal laboratories or military laboratories providing DNA analysis just to make sure there was no confusion of what we were talking about.
The survey itself was an online form, which we really thought was a good tool. We tried to make it as easy to fill out as possible, but also hoping that the questions would be answerable by the data systems that everybody collects their data in. That's not easy. A question is not always answered the same way. We don't define backlogs the same way. We don't define DNA cases the same way. We don't define forensic biology/serology screening cases the same way. And as I go forward, we'll talk a little bit about that.
We did follow-up communication with the key people in there and did the standard, typical survey model.
Response rate? I have to say this. Each laboratory was asked to fill out the survey individually. However, for many cases, the state lab headquarter laboratory filled out one for the combined state system. Every state laboratory provided a response and a large percentage of local laboratories responded. We were very pleased with the response. It does take time, though. People were like how can it take so long to do a survey. Well, when you ask people and you give them a deadline and the deadline slides and you call them again, that happens. And you have to provide data analysis, and you have to really do a job that nobody really wants to do because it's just another extra task on your plate.
What are the outcomes? Backlogs still exist. That was no surprise. The varying definition of backlog is troubling. I think Greg just did a great job in explaining how their backlog definition changed because it really was those cases that had no report. It wasn't all the cases that most people have. Sometimes you provide services for folks that don't know where their case is. They think they've sent it to the lab. It may not have been sent to the lab. There are some real issues there.
Demand and capacity. I think this is really interesting. The preliminary data shows that almost a doubling of DNA requests between 2005 and 2007. Now, that is actually going along with what Greg said, and not only that. With the low crime rate, your requests are actually increasing. Output has increased to meet the demand at the time but not to reduce the backlog. So if you look at that, the expansion of programs and things are working. It's just that the benchmark keeps changing.
And demand for DNA analysis continues to outpace available capacity. Again, a lot of this is intuitive information. We had to do it with statistics, but I'm not a stats guy. It's pretty simple. If you can only do X number and you get Y, there's going to be a backlog.
And the federal funding. Laboratories reported there will be an increase in backlog cases if federal funding was not available. I think that that's a fair statement. I think Greg would have been in the hole $2 million even with his $1 million worth of donations.
And a large percent of the funding actually was going towards training and equipment. Training has increased greatly. I hate to use Greg as an example, but he had the data just up there. When you add that many people, you got to train them, and the number's gonna increase. The 20 more for next year has another impact on getting more cases out the door as you're doing the training.
The story behind the backlog. I think you have to put these things in proper context. Forensic science in general lacks the capacity to perform cases as they arrive at the lab. Kevin said that the law enforcement agencies had well over 50 percent more items that were not submitted to the laboratory. It's pretty easy to figure out that the capacity is just not enough to even do what we have, let alone the ones that aren't submitted.
Many times they're held for a period of time before they get to the lab so they immediately become a rush case and a backlog occurs. And so they become backlogged.
Here's an example. It's been a while since I ran a crime lab, but I can tell you we did controlled substances and fire debris analysis, mainly chemistry. But in 1985 when crack cocaine hit the streets of Pinellas County, Florida, nobody even thought what was going to happen with that. It really blew up overnight. Our lab moved in 1986 to a new building, so it took time away, and we had cases that were on-hand being held in the locker.
In '87, the lab staff takes other jobs reducing the staff from five to three. So we actually had almost a 50 percent decrease in case-working people.
Increase in law enforcement investigations in the street-dealing of crack cocaine, without consulting the laboratory who was going to receive all those samples, caused a six-month case backlog into 1988. Judges in Pinellas County — if you go query the St. Pete Times, you can look at this. They were kicking the people out the door. They said the lab was woefully understaffed and that this was just a terrible, terrible thing. We needed to get these cases adjudicated.
So we add some resources, like everybody does, hire four new analysts, train them. The backlog returns to 30 days. Total time, even being predictive in something as relatively simple as controlled substance analysis, four years. That's in one small jurisdiction where the median age is now about 53 years old. Back then it was about 63 years old. And that's still a lot of drain.
And when you look at this, you have to put this stuff in proper context. Everybody wants to do every case they possibly can. They want to provide the timely necessary service. At some point in time, the requests outweigh the capacity and these cases are going to be backlogged.
If any of you were in the session earlier, it's actually the NFSTC booth outside the door here, and we have the NamUs program. And when we talk about looking at other backlogs, we do have a huge backlog of missing and unidentified persons cases. Again, it's one of those where we can get the data, get it in, and it's a capacity thing also.
Nelson: OK, do we have some microphones available for the audience since they may want to ask questions? Do we have any questions, first?
Questioner: I have one question. (Inaudible) one of the things that has bothered me for years, and it has been reiterated many times, and that is there is no universal definitions of backlog. And recently NIJ has made an attempt to do (inaudible) to define what a backlog is. Can any one of you address that and maybe give us some ideas as to how to (inaudible) universal definition back home (inaudible)?
Nelson: OK. For those of you on this side of the room, the question was we don't have a universal definition of a backlog. Does anybody want to take a crack at what a universal backlog might be? How do you define it?
Lothridge: Well, you have to define the terminology first so that you can actually apply it to the backlog, and because we don't say what a case is, what an item is, how things are counted, until we say if it's possible. Now there have been many years — Greg and I were talking to each other just now saying this is something that everybody has asked this exact question. Until you can define the terms that say these are identifiable units, the backlog is going to be what each and every person reports as their own backlog. So you're not going to have a total number as of date certain. You have to get the terminology down right. You have to say what an item is, what a case is, and identify where they're at. I just don't think it can be answered right at the moment.
Matheson: Obviously, I talked about a backlog definition change that we had. I agree. I mean, getting some sort of standardization is very difficult. I would love for somebody to come along and say from now on, you have to call it X, Y and Z. Unfortunately, you know, coming from an agency that has a heck of an ego, they definitely like to call things the way they want to call it unless they're being mandated to do it. You have to figure out a way to get along with other people. So coming up with a standard one is going to be difficult.
But to answer your question, number one, I think it has to be request-based. I mean, obviously, we don't know what exists out there in most areas, and that does actually pertain or go along with our current situation because another way of saying that all of, all of a sudden our backlog became all the kits in the freezer. Another way of saying it is overnight all of those were requested to be analyzed. So if you start on the basis that it's the cases that have been requested to analyze, then decide at what point it no longer is a backlog, which should be at its final state of the analysis, whatever that happens to be.
The final thing is do you count it from the request is made or do you count, give yourself a 30-day or a 60-day? That's something within our laboratory we're actually looking at because many people don't count a backlog the moment a request is made because if it's going to be completed in a timely manner, they don't want that on their books. So a lot of places when it comes to biology, they don't consider it a backlog until it's like 60 days old. And we're considering that.
In our case in narcotics, it becomes a backlog immediately, but as opposed to a lot of other agencies, we have to get the narcotics done within about 48 hours. So we don't carry much of a backlog in that.
Nelson: Does anybody know whether the Foresight Study is addressing this issue? Yes, George?
George: As a participant in the Foresight Study, I can tell you that we've spent days coming up with standardized definitions for what does it take, you know, what is the service request, what is the item to be tested, and what is the backlog. And it's not to say that if it meets any one laboratory's internal definitions, but it allowed a consensus definition that could be used across the North American continent actually.
Nelson: Thank you, George. Tim?
Questioner: This is a question for Kevin Strom. According to IACP, I believe they say there's about 42,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States, and you surveyed about 3,100. Does that mean the true backlog is about 15 or 15 times higher than what you're recording?
Strom: I don't know about the 42,000 in the United States. That may include, you know, many types of specialized police. General estimates are about 17,000 to 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies, and we surveyed a representative sample of those, which was about 3,000 agencies, and then applied statistical weights to give us a national average.
Questioner: So your numbers were based on what you think is the national average?
Strom: It would be a national total, correct, for state and local agencies.
Questioner: A question for Greg. Now that you've removed the discretion for sex crimes, why is it not reasonable to then move forward on attempted homicides or homicides and also remove that discretion (inaudible)?
Matheson: My personal opinion? I mean, one of the reasons that the discretion was removed from sexual assault cases had to do with, number one, it was a very easily defined piece of evidence that we could locate within our freezers. I mean, there's some practicality involved in this. It doesn't necessarily involve sexual assault cases at this point where there is no rape kit collected from it. The issue was the sexual assault kits because you could identify those and count them. It also had a very strong and well-organized group of people that are interested in seeing these happen. So the likelihood of another type of analysis getting the same kind of attention from external forces I think is fairly small.
From my own viewpoint, I think it makes less sense because you do need the detective's input to determine whether or not a piece of evidence is informative or probative to the investigation. And not that it isn't important to have their information in the sexual assault kit, but anybody in the room that has ever worked sexual assault investigations, there are so many unknowns, and the victims are reluctant to give information many times, that it almost pays to do the work and then figure out later on what the events were from the evidence as opposed to the other way around.
Questioner: Kevin, I was curious about your statement. You said that 29 percent of the agencies (inaudible). What does that mean? (Inaudible).
Strom: You know, we didn't really ask for clarification on that particular response. It could have been, in some cases it was for the very small agencies. For example, on the issue of no suspect identified in the case, I think 70 percent of the agencies that responded to that question were very small. So sometimes it's a learning curve at the smaller scale and that could be an issue with that response as well.
Nelson: Go ahead. Lytton?
Questioner: I have to say, as a CODIS state administrator, that I'm confident that the Los Angeles Police Department, local DNA system administrator, would be ensuring that only forensic (inaudible) profiles are coming into our state DNA (inaudible) from this massive undertaking on your part. And I'm serious about that. I know what's going on with you guys, and I trust that. But we've got to understand that we cannot just put any profile that we pull out of a piece of evidence into CODIS. It's got to be (inaudible) forensic (inaudible) profile, and there's a technical definition for what that is and how you figure that out.
Part of it is eliminating other persons, not just consensual partners and so on and so forth.
Matheson: That has been one of our major concerns throughout this whole area, and if you remember — I am going to go back — the review that our detective bureau did of all the kits in the freezer, one of the things that they did was they looked up every single case, either pulled the case package or looked in the automated system, to determine what the status of it is and where the evidence came from and associated pieces of information. That's why we found out that out of that batch, 700-plus were considered to be unfounded, and those won't be analyzed and won't be uploaded. So it definitely was a concern of ours.
And actually, that's one of those areas where we very much appreciate the fact that there are rules out there. I know that at least one of the strong victim advocate groups feel that we shouldn't take that into consideration, but having the law behind us, we can tell them, no, we have to take that into consideration.
Questioner: (Inaudible.) (Inaudible) a number of our other clients, the smaller police departments throughout the county, were satisfied and happy with that because they (inaudible) property crimes and (inaudible).
One of the solutions that our liaison has been expressing (inaudible) was to allow individual police departments or clusters of police departments to pay for AVLS to work on (inaudible), which creates another whole series of issues for us (inaudible). It's difficult to just turn out fully trained DNA examiners. It's a one- or two-year process (inaudible). We're still struggling with that particular question.
Nelson: So that I understand correctly, are you saying that the local police departments are going to pay to put an analyst in your laboratory to work their cases under your supervision and control?
Questioner: They would be county employees, but funded through municipalities in our jurisdiction.
Nelson: That's an interesting concept.
Questioner: Greg, I guess one of my questions — because you spoke very eloquently to the fact that the political pressures that (inaudible) bringing pressures to bear on you. The concept is — and you mentioned this very briefly — that they understand this is all progressive; you're only one small stop. And so you're moving with this, from your widget cost into someone else's widget cost. And when they see the pressures that are going to be applied by them, my point would be in (inaudible) to the prosecutors. Are they going to be prosecuting all of these crimes that you're now working? Because they're going to have to have the same kind of uploading of new prosecutors that you've had (inaudible).
Matheson: You know, I have no idea whether or not, you know, where they're going to go with it, but they will have the same groups watching them that watched us, and maybe they'll be able to get additional resources out of it. Along with the growth in our laboratory, our rape special section or our cold case group in the police department right now has more detectives assigned to just the investigation of these type of cases than anywhere else in the country. So they have received additional resources for exactly that same thing. So I don't know. We'll see.
One of the things that I didn't mention is Joe Peterson from Cal State L.A. is going to be doing a very exhaustive review of the experience that we have, what prosecutions come out of it, how many hits we have, and try and correlate it to the type of evidence that was collected or the type of situations surrounding the crime. So hopefully, by the time we are done with this, and he's done with his study, it will allow other laboratories or other jurisdictions to decide whether or not there's value in analyzing all of the kits or maybe just the kits that fall into a certain category.
We're going to kind of wait and see. In the meantime, we'll be done with our backlog and other people, hopefully, will be able to make some more intelligent decisions than — or more informed decisions — excuse me — than was made in our jurisdiction.
Nelson: Yes, ma'am?
Questioner: I heard something surprising. I was at a (inaudible) training last week. In Massachusetts (inaudible) the vaginal, the genital, (inaudible) rectal (inaudible). And we assume that just testing the vaginal swab, if we got a positive result there, it was a rape case that is done.
And the D.A.s were saying they actually like all of these laws tested, because if they can find, they can bring different charges depending on where they're getting positive results. And they want to stack up as many charges as they can, and some of the charges will get knocked off, and they're hoping that they'll get a sentence for one, a sentence for the other (inaudible).
Does this come into if you have to do four swabs from four different cases, that's four cases off your backlog versus four swabs and that's all in one case?
Matheson: OK, when it comes to the backlog or the previously unrequested or whatever the backlog is, unknown or stranger rapes basically, our goal is to identify that person as quickly as possible. So in other words, the process that we're doing to analyze these kits, the stranger ones, is to have them start working their way through the items until they find foreign DNA from the victim and stop at that point. That then can be uploaded, if it meets the rest of the criteria in the CODIS.
If we get a hit and they move on to prosecution, then it's entirely likely that that kit will then become a new request. It will come back to the laboratory, and all the rest of the items will be analyzed to determine whether or not there's additional charges. But the first round through is justifying something foreign and get that uploaded into CODIS.
Nelson: Any other questions?
Nelson: Join me in thanking our panelists today. I think they've done a great job.