For retired prosecutor Rockne Harmon, an Alameda County grand jury report outlining the deficiencies in the Oakland police crime lab only scratched the surface, says the San Francisco Chronicle. The backlog of more than 3,500 cases ranks a distant second in outrageousness to cases in which suspects have already been identified through DNA evidence – and yet whose cases have gone nowhere.
The lab compares DNA samples collected at crime scenes to samples in the national Combined DNA Indexing System. A match is called a “cold hit” and means that before these cases can be prosecuted, police must go collect a confirmation DNA sample from the potential suspect. Since Oakland police began using the system in 2000, they’ve gotten 538 cold hits. Yet, authorities have gotten and tested confirmation samples in only about one-third of those. “It’s not just that we need to do better with the lab – the Police Department has little or no commitment from investigators to follow up on them and get them charged,” said Harmon, who spent 33 years as a prosecutor in Alameda and Los Angeles counties.