BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Louisiana State Police crime lab has eliminated its backlog of cases and is processing fingerprints, DNA and toxicology samples in "real time," rather than keeping evidence on the shelf for months, officials announced Tuesday.
The time to analyze evidence and wrap up the report for a case has dropped from as much as 1,000 days to fewer than 15 days. Gov. Bobby Jindal said a bottleneck of 9,300 cases awaiting review at the crime lab when he took office in 2008 is gone.
"Our crime lab is now operating in real time, faster than ever before, across all types of case sections so we can quickly crack down on criminals and prosecute them to the fullest extent," the Republican governor said, standing with white-coated lab workers, state police officials and law enforcement leaders from the region who rely on the lab for analysis.
The state police lab, which handled 21,000 cases last year, accepts evidence for review from around the state, but the large majority of its cases are from the Baton Rouge area and surrounding parishes.
Before the backlog was eliminated, the state police couldn't process all of its own cases and had to outsource evidence analysis to other labs. But that work has been moved in-house.
"When you have over 9,000 cases sitting on shelves, that's unacceptable," said Col. Mike Edmonson, superintendent of state police. "The cases that these men and women work, there's faces to them, there's closure to that family."
Over the past five years, the crime lab received an infusion of state funding for new equipment and technology upgrades, its work space expanded by one-third, and state police used new management strategies to speed up analysis, the governor and Edmonson said.
The budget for the crime lab has dropped from $13.8 million in 2008 to $13.2 million today, according to Capt. Doug Cain, a spokesman for the state police.
But Cain said staff at the lab has grown from 82 people to 100 workers, as the crime lab has collaborated with local law enforcement agencies that provide more than a dozen workers for the lab and pay for them. In exchange, the state police offer training and lab work space.
Mike Ranatza, executive director of the Louisiana Sheriffs Association, described the law enforcement coordination at the lab and its results as "the largest accomplishment in our professional careers."