Illinois officials say the state’s DNA backlog is down by nearly half. Governor J.B. Pritzker and ISP Director Brendan F. Kelly announced a 48-percent reduction in Biology-DNA pending assignments yesterday. The backlog has gone from nearly 93-hundred pending assignments in March 2019 down to just over 48-hundred as of the end of last month. Pritzker says the Forensic Science Task Force established in 2019 is making more recommendations to further reduce the backlog.
Press Release below:
Governor JB Pritzker and Illinois State Police (ISP) Director Brendan F. Kelly announced today the ISP Division of Forensic Services (DFS) achieved a 48% overall reduction in Biology/DNA pending assignments, commonly known as “the DNA backlog.” On March 1, 2019, the backlog consisted of 9,289 pending assignments. As of Nov. 30, 2020, forensic scientists worked the number of pending assignments down to 4,857.
“Since the beginning of my administration, we have prioritized implementing policies and procedures that will allow the dedicated forensics team at ISP’s Division of Forensic Services to reduce the state’s DNA backlog. Thanks to the leadership of the Forensic Science Task Force, which my administration established in 2019, additional recommendations to help further decrease the backlog are now underway,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “I am encouraged by the 48% reduction in forensic cases and will continue to support ISP’s work to bring brings victims and their loved ones a step closer to justice.”
“For more than a decade, trends in forensic labs across the country, including in Illinois, have been headed the wrong direction, but because of the hard work and discipline of the Illinois State Police we are finally headed in the right direction in Illinois,” said ISP Director Brendan F. Kelly. “Our progress is real and significant, but no one in the Illinois State Police will be satisfied until all victims can trust that the cause of justice will be advanced and not delayed by forensics.”
Remarkably, this reduction was achieved while having up to six forensic scientists from the biology/DNA section on loan for more than four months to the Illinois Department of Public Health to assist with COVID-19 testing.
Forensics outcomes across a variety of metrics have significantly improved.
These outcomes were achieved in part by executing a multi-prong strategy:
Additionally, Gov. Pritzker’s Forensic Science Task Force, chaired by ISP Director Kelly, continued to meet during the pandemic and made additional, specific recommendations that, if implemented, will sustain the momentum of reducing the backlog and improving turnaround times.
The ISP DFS will also move into a new laboratory in Decatur, occupying roughly 12,000 square feet in the first two stories of the building. The ISP DFS will utilize this as a DNA lab, initially processing evidence submitted from property crimes. The addition of this lab will allow the further reduction in turnaround times. Funding for the construction of a new forensics lab in the Joliet area was also secured under Gov. Pritzker’s bi-partisan capital bill and is moving forward under the Capital Development Board.
The ISP DFS unveiled the sexual assault kit tracking system, known as Checkpoint, before the statutory deadline. This system allows sexual assault survivors to track their evidence in real time from collection at the hospital to law enforcement pick-up and submission to the forensic lab and lastly, to the prosecutors’ office.
The ISP’s success in decreasing the forensic backlog are not limited to the Biology/DNA section.