Dean Gialamas, Director, Scientific Services Bureau, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department
NIJ Conference 2010
Dean Gialamas: The backlog, from a crime lab management perspective, is really a false metric. If you look at backlogs, they really are nothing more than inputs into the laboratory. And when you look at things like efficiency, backlog really doesn't answer the question for you.
By way of example, the NIJ Convicted Offender DNA Backlog Reduction Program: There were millions of dollars spent on reducing the convicted offender backlogs in crime labs, and when the program was over, even though there was significant funding, there still were backlogs across convicted offender laboratories. And that wasn't due to the fact that they weren't being worked; it was due to the fact that more and more states were adding arrestee laws or they were adding additional laws that allowed more samples to be collected.
Backlog also doesn't tell you anything about efficiency. When you look at programs like Orange County, California, and what they've done with improving their DNA turnaround time — adding robotics and batching. They went from processing 300 samples a year to — I'm sorry, 3,000 samples a year to about 13,, 14,000 samples a year. And in that time they went from a backlog of no property crime cases to a backlog of 2,600 property crime cases. So backlog in that sense in Orange County, even though their productivity was increased four to five times, backlog didn't really address the problem.
I think we, as crime lab managers, are part of that problem. We propagate that, and I think policymakers need to understand that backlog isn't really the number we're looking for. We need to be focusing on true performance; that would be inputs, outputs, what we can achieve based on what comes in. And backlogs can change. We don't have control of them in the crime laboratory. Those backlogs are influenced by crime rates; they're influenced by client needs and the types of cases that they need performed and worked.
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Dean M. Gialamas, Director, Scientific Services Bureau, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department
Date created: August 18, 2010