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Santa Monica to Consider Nearly $1 Million Contract for DNA Specialist

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Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP


Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

 

By Lookout Staff

April 21, 2016 -- Saddled with a backlog of DNA-related evidence, the City of Santa Monica is considering a nearly $1 million contract over five years to hire a DNA specialist, officials said.

On the City Council’s agenda Tuesday, the contract would clear the way for the services of a Senior Criminalist from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Crime Lab assigned to only handle cases involving Santa Monica DNA evidence, according to staff.

“An increased reliance on the County Crime Lab to process this form of evidence created a backlog of unanalyzed evidence,” the report to the Council said. “These delays provided criminals with the opportunity to offend multiple times before they were apprehended.

“In some cases, it took the County Crime Lab longer to provide DNA analysis results than it would take a suspect to navigate through the criminal justice system.

The Santa Monica Police Department’s Forensic Lab is not equipped to conduct DNA analysis and must rely on the County lab, staff said. As a result, local police must stand in line with the majority of the county’s municipal law enforcement agencies for services.

The County Crime Lab handles orders on a first come, first served basis, which causes backups of as much as six months, the report noted.

“As a result, criminal cases were adjudicated based on lesser charges as there was no ability to bring about more substantial charges due to the absence of the results of the DNA analysis.”

The Senior Criminalist would process and analyze DNA evidence, as well as work with staff or the forensic response, including field work, crime scene processing, lab work and courtroom testimony, staff said.

Tuesday’s Council agenda would expand a six-month pilot program that started in 2014. The program, which was extended to a year -- assigns a senior county DNA expert to Santa Monica cases.

Officials recommend extending the arrangement again, but for a longer term.

This time, the initial one-year contract for $170,792 includes the option of four additional one-year renewals totaling no more $934,734, including a five percent annual contingency.

Since the pilot program was launched, the wait time for DNA analysis has been reduced from an average of 79 days to an average of 33.6 days, or a 58 percent decrease, staff said.

The complete process was cut from an average of 95 days to 64.5 days, for a 32 percent reduction, staff said.

Santa Monica “has benefitted significantly since the launch of the program,” staff said.


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