No one has hours to scour the papers to keep up with the latest news, so we’ve curated the top news stories in the field of Forensic Science for this week. Here’s what you need to know to get out the door!
The number of pending sexual assault forensic kits older than 180 days in Illinois has reached zero. This is down from a backlog of 1,815 sexual assault forensic assignments that were pending longer than 180 days in March of 2019.
Illinois State Police (ISP) utilized a variety of strategies to reduce turnaround time, including ramping up the use of forensic technologies and robotics, and hiring additional forensic scientists .
Gregory Dutton, a physical scientist at NIJ, and science writer Jim Dawson continue their conversation on the microbiome: what it is, how it applies to forensics, and the evolution of its role in forensic science. Listen to the first half of Jim and Greg’s microbiome discussion.
In March 2003, the Gray’s Harbor Sheriff’s Office (Washington) investigated a kidnapping and rape that started on Church Road in McCleary. A 17-year-old female was abducted when she returned home to her residence in her vehicle. The suspect bound the female and loaded her into her own vehicle. The female was taken to an undisclosed location and was sexually assaulted. After sexually assaulting the female, the suspect drove her to a location near McCleary and left her in the vehicle.
The victim was able to free herself and she returned to her residence where the kidnapping and assault were reported to 911. The victim was taken to a hospital to be examined. Investigators collected evidence at the hospital and a DNA profile was eventually obtained for the suspect in the sexual assault.
Although an exhaustive investigation was conducted, investigators were not been able to identify a suspect. The suspect’s DNA profile was entered into the nationwide criminal database but it was not linked to a known person in the database.
In December 2020, Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office Chief Darrin Wallace obtained grant money to submit the DNA evidence to a private laboratory for testing. The genealogy testing revealed a short list of subjects that were linked to the DNA profile of the suspect.
Staffing is a problem right now in many industries, not just forensic. That being said, the nature of forensics can add an additional complexity to staffing. Dealing with violence, crime and death on a daily basis can be too much for some to handle. And while that is more evident in disciplines like forensic pathology and forensic nurses, which continue to experience unprecedented worker shortages, forensic DNA analysts are also subjected to the melancholy of the job.
Additionally, backlogs and intense demands for precision and timeliness can put undue pressure on DNA personnel. Some forensic laboratories may even have hiring restrictions put in place by government administrations, or are subject to legislation that negatively affects their staffing efficiency.
“Recruiting, hiring, and training forensic analysts is an arduous and complex process,” reads the NIJ’s most recent report, “[however] the outcomes will directly impact the laboratory’s functioning and efficiency.”
Chapter 3 of the report, “National Best Practices for Improving DNA Laboratory Process Efficiency,” offers numerous recommendations for hiring, training and retention of forensic DNA experts, some of which are summarized in this article.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS? SUBSCRIBE TO THE ISHI BLOG BELOW!