Reducing the backlog of DNA samples waiting to be processed by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation is an important step in supporting law enforcement efforts across the state.
A year ago, the KBI labs had 38,000 DNA samples waiting to be processed. As of last month, that number had dropped to just over 11,000, Attorney General Steve Six announced Wednesday. The progress was made possible, Six said, by increased funding approved by the Kansas Legislature, some federal grants and internal changes that allowed the KBI to improve efficiency.
Six explained that the backlog was created by recent changes in Kansas law. Since 2002, law enforcement agencies were required by statute to collect DNA samples from all convicted felons. In July 2008, that requirement was expanded to include all persons arrested on felony charges or certain misdemeanor charges.
The resulting increase in samples being submitted caused the KBI labs to fall behind. Before the recent improvement, law enforcement agencies were having to wait six to seven months to receive DNA test results that were critical to criminal prosecutions. The expanded requirement to collect DNA samples was intended to help the state prosecute and close more criminal cases, but that would only happen if the samples could be analyzed in a timely fashion.
Wednesday’s announcement indicates the state has made huge strides. The backlog of DNA samples has been reduced by 70 percent, Six said, and is expected to be completely eliminated by February 2011. However, he noted, it will be difficult for the agency to stay current with its existing staffing and equipment. The agency received 16,000 DNA samples for testing last year.
KBI Director Bob Blecca said that speeding up the DNA processing had been “a tremendous boost” to criminal investigations across the state. That’s a benefit not only to prosecutors and law enforcement agencies directly involved with these investigations but to the safety of everyone in Kansas. Congratulations to state legislators who supported the increased KBI funding and all those who helped implement the changes and reduce the testing backlog.