Backlogged MA Police Crime Lab Works In “Triage” Mode


Two years ago, the Massachusetts State Police Crime Lab came under scrutiny after a state-ordered investigation revealed that more than 16,000 DNA samples, some dating back to the 1980s, were stacked in cold storage and had not been analyzed. That backlog, characterized by the state to be of “crisis proportions,'' led to the firing or resignation of three lab employees, including the administrator and director. The Boston Globe says the lab no longer is focused on reducing that backlog to zero.

Since 2007, only 500 samples have been tested from the 16,000. Those samples – many of them connected to homicides and other deaths, sexual assaults, and property crimes – were tested only because district attorneys requested that they be analyzed. If no requests are made, the samples remain in cold storage. If the statute of limitations is encroaching on a case, the lab will unilaterally analyze certain samples, said John Grossman, the Department of Public Safety's undersecretary of forensic science and technology. “We are exercising triage, working with the various district attorneys' offices,'' Grossman said. “When the requests come in, we analyze; otherwise, most of those 16,000 samples will remain in cold storage.'' Many of those 16,000 involve property crimes, motor vehicle incidents, and assaults. The highest priority is testing the newest samples. There are about 3,000 crime scene DNA samples and about 3,500 DNA samples from felons that need to be entered into the federal Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS. The lab can complete 80 to 110 such analyses a month.

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