The Justice Department’s focus on solving crimes through DNA testing neglects more useful crime lab work including fingerprint analysis and drug tests, prosecutors, victims’ advocates and lab directors told a Senate panel Thursday.
The complaints centered on the Bush administration’s plan to spend more than $1 billion during the next five years to improve local DNA crime labs, to teach police and crime scene technicians how to collect DNA samples and to test a backlog of nearly 1 million samples from convicted offenders and from the scenes of unsolved crimes.
USA Today reports that the plan has been lauded by officials who see DNA testing as the most significant advance in crime-solving since fingerprint analysis became routine nearly a century ago. But the Justice Department’s elimination of a key funding source for non-DNA tests – a $40 million grant program for state and local labs – has raised concern that the administration is banking too much on new technology and giving short shrift to proven crime-solving techniques.
Thursday’s hearing highlighted a rift in the law enforcement community between advocates of DNA testing and those who believe its importance has been overstated.