A recent quarterly report revealed that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is taking longer to process forensic evidence than last quarter. The report showed a downward trend for the overall progress of the labs throughout the past year.
The state labs were shown to be slower in almost every measurable category. This is causing serious delays in court dates and trials to drag on.
- Extracting latent fingerprints was taking 87 days to process from January to March. By the end of June it was taking 91 days.
- DNA and biology samples that took 85 days to process earlier in the year are now taking 88 days.
- Computer evidence processing was taking 113 days early in the year. Now, it is 119 days. Last year during the same period, it was taking 84 days to process computer evidence. The agency’s stated goal is 70 days.
State officials cite extremely high turnover of lab employees caused by low pay for the poor performance. Over the past five years the lab has lost 107 of 297 employees, 40 percent of which claim to have left for better pay.
A typical Florida state lab employee makes around $41,000 a year, which is about $20,000 lower than other labs. State officials claim it takes roughly two years before a new lab employee is fully trained, making the outlook for the already massive backlog to look even more hopeless.
To remedy the problem a proposal asking for $4 million to be added to lab employees’ salaries has been submitted to the Florida House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.
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