Only 30 percent of the DNA samples that Portland police submit to the state crime lab are tested within 30 days, a national benchmark for timely analysis, according to a city audit reported by The Oregonian. The average processing time in 2010 and 2011 for Portland DNA evidence submitted to the lab was 56 days. The audit found there are hundreds, perhaps a thousand, DNA samples that are stored at the bureau’s property evidence warehouse that haven’t been submitted to the lab.
Crime labs nationally are struggling with DNA testing backlogs, partly because federal and state laws require authorities to collect more DNA samples yet the lab capacity hasn’t been able to meet the demand. Oregon, for example, requires DNA samples from all convicted felons. Randall Wampler of the Oregon State Police Forensic Services Division said the city audit failed to take into account how the state lab prioritizes murder and sexual assault cases compared to lower-level property crime cases. “For public understanding, we are getting to those highly sensitive cases much quicker than what this report shows,” Wampler said. “Certainly when we get a homicide or a sex assault, it goes up to the top of our priority list and into the DNA queue for processing, whereas a burglary or break-in to a car could sit for two years before we ever get to it.”