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Growing caseload impacting turnaround time at state crime lab

Posted at 5:13 PM, Nov 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-29 19:13:57-05

From fingerprinting to toxicology, the Idaho State Police Crime Lab analyzes it all; but with an increase in case submissions, the lab's forensics team says its tough to stay ahead of the backlog.

A majority of cases, at some point, pass through forensics.

"Our scientists are working extremely hard," said Matthew Gamette, Idaho State Police Director of Forensic Services. 

Last year, the lab processed more than 13,000 cases, with just over 80 percent of the cases stemming from local or county agencies. 

The goal is to complete forensic services needed for most types of cases -- or disciplines -- within 30 days. 

"If we have a good lab system, like ours here at Idaho State Police, we can get those results fairly quickly," said ISP Maj. Charlie Spencer. "...and we can get people identified, we can exonerate people as well, through that timely analysis."

However, a growing number of cases submitted daily, coupled with a few open job positions at the lab, have created a bit of a backlog. 

For example, the average turnaround time for latent prints is now 101 days -- up from the lab's strategic goal of 30 days. 

"When we have multiple cases, it adds to the turnaround times, even though we're batching most of those cases as we're going through the process," Gamette said. 

A job that requires accuracy and attention to detail, the lab is looking to hire -- expanding its team of the "unsung heroes" of the criminal justice system.

"Our goal is to be led by science," Gamette said. "Whether the science leads to prosecution, or a conviction, or an exoneration. It doesn't matter to us. What matters is that the science is done well."

Another goal for the lab is to be one of the most transparent organizations in the state.

They've set up a tracking chart for the public to see its progress on cases. You can view it by clicking here.