After promising nearly a year ago to hire additional DNA analysts to cut through a backlog of cases, the Police Department's crime lab still has less than half the staff it needs to cover the workload. The lab, which would ideally be staffed by 11 technicians, has actually lost employees since last June when the department promised to hire more. With only four DNA analysts currently on staff, the Examiner reports that the city spends $1.8 million a year outsourcing some 30 cases per month to a private DNA lab in Richmond.
The backup at the department became apparent last May and suddenly more urgent in June when delays at the lab caused authorities to miss a key DNA hit that could have prevented a deadly rampage. To make things worse, the Ex reports no one at the department ever properly set up a piece of testing equipment the department acquired in 2004 that would have allowed for 16 DNA samples to be tested simultaneously - as opposed to the equipment currently in use that only allows for a single sample at a time. Although the backlog at the lab numbered as high as 500 cases at one point, SFPD told the Examiner they've gotten a handle on it thanks to the outsourcing. The remaining four technicians on staff handle a higher-than-average caseload of 20 cases apiece, and the department continues to outsource the balance of incoming cases to Richmond.