The Federal Eye usually reports on government mishaps, missteps and mistakes, so it’s a rare treat to find a watchdog report suggesting an agency has fixed something.
Today’s our lucky day: The FBI has effectively eliminated a backlog of DNA samples from convicted federal offenders, arrestees and criminal detainees and is now working with a “manageable monthly workload,” according to a report released Friday by the Justice Department’s inspector general.
Whittling down the federal government’s backlog permits law enforcement agencies nationwide to use the evidence as potential leads in unsolved cases or cases without suspects, the report said.
The lab’s backlog ballooned in the last decade as federal legislation expanded the scope of DNA sample collection among federal offenders and suspects, the report said. In Dec. 2009, the crime lab accumulated a backlog of more than 312,000 samples. Now, it processes about 14,000 samples monthly — a manageable workload, investigators said.
The report cautions the FBI to carefully track workload levels to ensure they don’t create another backlog and to keep senior agency officials informed of potential backlogs.
It also raises concerns with the long-term storage of DNA samples. As of May, the FBI needed to store more than 712,000 DNA samples and anticipated having 1 million by the end of the year. Most samples are stored in the basement of the FBI lab in boxes stacked floor to ceiling.
The agency said it is in the process of finding high-density storage units or off-site storage facilities, but the report worries those plans aren’t moving fast enough.
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