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Testimony on the Status of the Consolidated Forensic Laboratory Project

Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Statement from the Metropolitan Police Department

The following statement was presented by Chief of Police Cathy L. Lanier to the District of Columbia Council, Committee on Public Safety & the Judiciary, Honorable Phil Mendelson, Chair, on May 29, 2007, at the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.

Good afternoon, Chairperson Mendelson, members of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, and guests. I am Cathy Lanier, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department. Thank you for this opportunity to give you an update on the Forensic Laboratory Technician Training Program. Joining me is Christopher Lojacono, Commander of MPD’s Operational Support Command, Crime Scene Investigations Branch and Dr. William Vosburgh, Program Manager for the Consolidated Laboratory.

I am pleased to report that the District is well on its way toward constructing a consolidated laboratory which will allow the District to increase its case clearance rates and to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, DNA backlogs. Since the program began in August 2004, we have worked to create a long-term staffing plan which will both attract forensic specialists to the District and retain them once they are on board. Currently, we are fully staffed with 10 forensic positions. Four trace analysis employees are fully trained and are working MPD cases. Five of the six DNA employees have started FBI training and three of the five have qualified in serology. The sixth DNA employee is awaiting her FBI background investigation to be completed.

But in order for the District to continue to  attract the best forensic technicians, we must offer salaries that are competitive with the federal government and the private sector. To address this, Commander Lojacano has met with representatives from the DC Department of Human Resources, the MPD Human Services Office, and the City Administrator’s Office. We have completed a market survey and proposed pay scale for certain forensic positions through the DC Department of Human Resources to determine whether adjustments should be made in position grade levels to make the District more competitive and to attract highly qualified candidates.

Thanks to the support of the Mayor and the Council, MPD requested and received funding in FY07 to hire an additional 10 employees on a staggered hiring schedule. These additional 10 FTE’s will include two DNA Examiners, two DNA Technicians, one Quality Assurance Manager, one Evidence Control Manager and four Evidence Control Technicians. The job postings for the DNA Examiner positions and the Evidence Control positions have recently closed and interviews with the candidates were completed on May 22nd. The eight candidates selected will undergo an MPD background investigation which normally takes 6-8 weeks to complete. It is anticipated that the eight candidates will begin working by August 2007. Position Descriptions for Evidence Control Unit Manager and the Quality Assurance Manager are being prepared and those positions should be posted by June 2007.

The FY07 budget for the Forensic Laboratory Technician Training Program is $1,237,675.02. The proposed FY08 budget for the Forensic Laboratory Technician Training Program is $1,685,707.00. This increase will ensure all 20 laboratory positions are fully funded in FY08 and money is available to increase the grade levels of certain forensic positions should the market survey conducted by DCHR warrant increases. I have every reason to believe that once the Forensic Laboratory Technician Training Program is fully staffed and salaries are competitive, we will be able to take full advantage of DNA technologies in a state-of-the-art laboratory that will aid crime fighting efforts and assist the local and federal government prosecute cases.

Thank you for allowing me to testify. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.