The Oakland police department, which handles some of the toughest crimes in the San Francisco Bay Area, doesn’t have anyone who can read or match fingerprints, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The fingerprint unit at the department’s crime lab used to have three technicians. For the past seven months, it’s been shut down for lack of money and staff. Oakland cops still dust for fingerprints about 113 times a month. Veteran homicide Sgt. Phil Green said they often don’t even bother to submit the prints for analysis because they know it’s useless to do so. “It’s a huge deal,” said Green, whose unit has been trying to deal with 142 homicides this year alone. The prints investigators do submit join a backlog of cases awaiting outside analysis. That backlog now totals 162 cases.
So far, prints from only about 30 Oakland cases given high priority have been sent out and analyzed by the Contra Costa County sheriff’s crime lab in what one official calls a Band-Aid approach. The unit closed when the last of the fingerprint experts, hired with grant money and therefore temporary, left for the security of permanent jobs elsewhere.