Kansas City crime lab delays create backlog of criminal cases
With the advent of modern forensics technology, criminal trials have changed markedly. In the past, investigators had to rely mostly on testimony from witnesses in order to gain information regarding an alleged crime. But with the availability of fingerprint, DNA, chemical substance and ballistic analysis, police are now able to pinpoint the evidence that can make or break a criminal case.
But the Kansas City Police Department has reported that getting results back from the city’s crime lab can take months. This delay certainly creates problems for police investigating a criminal situation. But it also creates hardship for individuals who face serious charges for felonies such as homicide, rape and drug distribution.
Under the Kansas Constitution, trials must progress without “unnecessary delay,” and anyone accused of a crime is entitled to a “speedy public trial.” But due to the variety of problems the Kansas City crime lab is experiencing, many criminal suspects must wait a considerable period of time for their day in court.
Kansas City’s crime lab points out key reasons for the delay. One reason is that the lab is unable to keep up with the volume of evidence requiring analysis, especially DNA evidence. Further, budget cuts in the city’s police department have made it impossible for the lab to offer competitive salaries to qualified staff.
Because the forensics lab is facing a backlog of over 3,500 cases it is now outsourcing some of the workload to the new Johnson County Crime Lab, which employs several former Kansas City analysts. In the meantime, officials from the Kansas City lab are pushing for new facilities and increased wages for its employees in hopes of increasing efficiency.