Faced with a fiscal crisis, Los Angeles officials have refused to hire needed analysts for the police crime laboratory, hampering a plan to eliminate a backlog of untested DNA evidence from rape cases and angering victims’ rights advocates, reports the Los Angeles Times. Last spring, despite a near freeze on all city hiring, the City Council set aside $1.4 million to hire 26 staffers for the lab and cover their salaries for six months.
The proposed hires were part of a three-year plan Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa unveiled in 2008, vowing that it would remedy the chronic staffing shortfalls in the lab that had led to a massive backup of evidence. Sixteen people were hired but 36 more were needed before the lab would be capable of handling the constant demands for testing of evidence. Despite the council’s allocation for 26 new hires, the lab was stymied repeatedly as police officials sought the funds and permission needed from City Hall to begin the hiring. City officials have told the police department now that its request had been rejected.