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Glendale lines up funding to create police DNA lab

Police officials say processing DNA samples in-house will be faster and more cost-effective than using Los Angeles County's overburdened DNA processing system.

October 03, 2010|By Nardine Saad, Los Angeles Times

The Glendale Police Department hopes to build a $3-million DNA lab to expedite the processing of evidence and ease demand on Los Angeles County's overburdened testing system, officials said.

"The top priority for our lab operation is to eradicate the backlog for Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena," Glendale Police Capt. Raymond Edey said.

The Glendale City Council voted Tuesday to accept a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, augmenting $1 million in local funds the council approved last October.

Edey said the department is also seeking a $500,000 grant of federal asset forfeiture funds and has requested additional money from Congress.

If all goes well, the lab could begin operation in 18 months.

"It's a lot of work, but it's not so much a money-saver as it is a crime-saver," he said.

The Glendale lab would be staffed with three or four employees and overseen by a chief scientist. It would be located in the Police Department's forensic lab.

Once profiles are built from DNA samples, they will be entered into the FBI's CODIS system, if the lab becomes accredited. The department aims to process 1,200 to 2,000 samples a year, Edey said.

"We're hoping it pays for itself through the savings of time and money and lives and the potential for other contracts," he said.

Having an in-house lab would expedite DNA processing. Profiles could be turned around in as little as 72 hours, a stark contrast to the six-month delay the department faces when samples are sent to the sheriff's lab, Edey said.

In addition to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the Los Angeles Police Department operates a crime-based DNA lab. Both have enlisted the services of private labs to reduce their backlogs, which have been shrinking over the past several months.

"It's a very difficult proposition to set up to do any kind of forensic testing, particularly DNA testing," said Cmdr. Earl Shields of the sheriff's Technical Services Division.

A new lab could help alleviate the sheriff's overburdened system by reducing the number of samples sent to their labs. The sheriff's lab handles DNA samples from violent crimes at no direct cost to cities, but processing DNA from other cases could cost local governments up to $1,600 per sample.

Edey said "there's really nowhere to turn" when the police departments want to process evidence from property crimes or burglaries. Working on those DNA samples in-house would be more cost-effective.

"The more crooks we could get off the streets and behind bars with DNA evidence the better," he said.

nardine.saad@latimes.com

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