A new audit by the Secretary of State found that due to inefficiencies and inadequate staffing, it takes the Oregon State Police forensics division 65 days on average to analyze evidence like fingerprints and DNA. That’s twice as long as the industry standard for timely service, according to the new audit.
The state’s five forensics labs are struggling with a rising caseload; the demand for testing has increased 31 percent since 2005. In 2014, the labs received 29,500 requests for evidence testing.
Changes in Oregon law in the past few years could lead to even more evidence going to the labs for testing. Marijuana legalization, for example, could mean new tests for driving under the influence, and a task force is currently reviewing what do with thousands of untested rape kits held by law enforcement agencies across the state.
“They should doing strategic planning around those increases, as opposed to just letting them happen to them and trying to catch up,” said Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins.
Atkins says better long-range planning is necessary if the lab wants to request funding from the Oregon Legislature to hire more analysts.
The audit also found law enforcement agencies often don’t complete all the paperwork when they submit evidence, which leads to delays and confusion about what type of forensics testing is needed.