The D.C. Department of Forensics Science has no longer has a backlog of rape kits.
D.C.’s DNA lab had lost its accreditation three years ago, outsourcing its forensic work to other agencies such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, but city officials said the elimination of the rape kit backlog represent a turnaround for the lab.
“Unlike nearly every state in this country that has hundreds to thousands of sexual assault kits that haven’t been tested and are sitting in backlog, we have no backlog here,” said Jenifer Smith, the lab’s director. “Due to efforts of our DNA unit, [which] has reduced that backlog to zero.”
Smith said the lab has improved communication with police and prosecutors, its scientists are examining evidence and returning reports to investigators more quickly and is putting more emphasis on processing fingerprint and firearm forensics. New software will help improve the process even more, she said
The department’s protocol now is to process rape and sexual assault kits within 90 days. The lab now operates independently and has seen two clean audits by accrediting agencies.
“Our DNA lab, the lab that was suspended, is no longer lagging in the field of DNA analysis — our DNA lab is now leading the way,” Smith said.
For both the firearms and fingerprint labs, the target was to complete 50 percent of homicide and priority cases within 60 days, she said. But for four consecutive quarters, the lab has exceeded the goal and completed 83 percent of the high-priority cases within 60 days, and more than 95 percent of latent fingerprint cases were completed in 60 days.