Rep. Schiff Continues Fight to Reduce DNA Kit Backlog During Committee Hearings with the Attorney General and FBI DirectorThursday March 18, 2010
Washington, D.C. - Rep. Schiff this week pressed forward with his efforts to reduce the nation’s DNA kit backlog during hearings with Attorney General Holder and FBI Director Mueller. At Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee hearings this week, Rep. Schiff questioned these top Administration officials about their departments’ efforts to help reduce DNA kit backlogs. In response, both men made strong commitments to eradicating the backlogs and each provided progress updates on their departments’ ongoing efforts.
“DNA evidence is the one of the best tools we have to help solve violent crimes,” said Schiff. “It is deplorable that we have a backlog of DNA rape kits when we know that these tests can help catch murderers and rapists and take them off the street before they can victimize others. The FBI could speed up the process of uploading DNA profiles and save the Los Angeles millions of dollars if we reduce unnecessary redundancy and make the process of analysis more efficient. I thank Attorney General Holder and Director Mueller for their commitment to work on this issue.”
At a hearing on Tuesday, Attorney General Holder stated, “We have for fiscal year  a $150 million DNA initiative to try to deal with the backlog, and also deal with ways in which we can ring out from this very, very promising technology efficiencies. I think people oftentimes think of DNA as only the thing that springs people who were unjustly accused of a -- of a crime. And it certainly has had that impact. But it is also a very, very important law enforcement tool that convicts people who have committed very, very serious crimes.”
Director Mueller indicated progress in reducing the backlogs in stating, “I would say that the backlog that we've had in terms of ingesting the samples into DNA will be reduced to almost nothing by September. We now ingest, I think it's 25,000 samples a month. That will go up to 90,000 a month given the resources that were appropriated for -- appropriated for us back in 2009. We've now brought those persons onboard, and we are using -- reorienting how we do things. And we're also using robotics in ways we have not in the past. So that by September our hope is that there'll be no more than a 30-day delay in ingesting any samples, new samples that come in, regardless of the amounts that have tripled, quadrupled over the years, as I know you understand.”
In response to a question from Congressman Schiff related to the FBI technical review requirements, Director Mueller stated that the FBI was reviewing their policy and would be announcing a fix in that area shortly. Both the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Sherriff’s Department have used private labs to expedite the processing of the rape kit backlog, but FBI technical review requirements create a second backlog, slowing down the closing of the backlog.
For years, Rep. Schiff has been spearheading Congressional efforts to reduce DNA kit backlogs. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, he secured $500,000 for the Rape Kit Backlog Elimination Program run by the Los Angeles Police Department in the Omnibus that passed in December 2009. In the same bill he also helped secure $500,000 for DNA equipment for the Regional Crime Lab being established in Glendale and $1,000,000 for County of Los Angeles Sheriff's Department for its Rape Kit Backlog Reduction Program.
Rep. Schiff has also pushed legislation to require the DNA testing of anyone arrested for a violent felony, a proposal give new momentum recently when the President embraced the idea during his appearance on John Walsh’s 1000th episode of America’s Most Wanted.