Board lauds Crime Lab’s progress, says better pay and more scientists needed
Release date: 5/8/2014
Raleigh: The North Carolina State Crime Laboratory has made impressive progress but needs more resources to hire and keep qualified scientists on staff, an independent board that advises the Lab told lawmakers today.
Among the Crime Lab’s achievements highlighted in a letter sent by the North Carolina Forensic Science Advisory Board to state legislators:
Achieving ISO accreditation, the highest available to forensic laboratories, from two independent accrediting bodies.
Independent certification for all eligible scientists.
Implementation of Lean Six Sigma, a private industry efficiency methodology, to increase productivity.
Integration of laboratory and criminal justice system databases to improve efficiency.
The Board also urged legislators to provide the Crime Lab with the resources needed to keep up with demand and retain forensic scientists.
“[T]he Laboratory lacks critical resources necessary to serving North Carolina taxpayers and the criminal justice system at the highest operational level. Non-competitive scientist pay resulting in persistent attrition, crushing caseloads and too few analysts, and ongoing court demands for in-person testimony—all continue to take their toll on the Laboratory,” wrote Kermit B. Channell, Chair, in the letter sent on behalf of the entire Board.
The 18-member Forensic Science Advisory Board
includes forensic sciences experts from across the country. The director of the State Crime Lab, Judge Joseph John, is also a member of the board.
“These independent forensic experts have identified mission critical issues affecting the efficiency and productivity of the State Crime Lab. Even in difficult budget times, we are hopeful that the General Assembly will be responsive to the acute needs of our agency which is the linchpin of the criminal justice system,” said John.
The Board recommends that lawmakers fund a 10 percent salary increase for Crime Lab scientists, as recommended by a legislative study committee, to keep highly-qualified, well-trained scientists from leaving for better paying positions elsewhere. In addition, 21 new DNA analysts should be hired to keep up with the growing demand for DNA evidence and testimony in criminal cases, the Board says.
The Board also recommends that full funding be provided to build an expanded Western Regional Crime Laboratory, so that toxicology and DNA analysis can be added for that part of the state. The Crime Lab currently operates a main facility in Raleigh and satellite labs in Asheville and Greensboro that provide forensic analysis free of charge to District Attorneys, sheriffs, police and other law enforcement agencies.
Contact: Noelle Talley, (919) 716-6413