ISP Announces 48% Cut to DNA Evidence Backlog

By Benjamin Cox on December 2, 2020 at 1:36pm

The Illinois State Police announced today that they have cut the DNA backlog almost in half. ISP Director Brendan F. Kelly announced in a joint statement with Governor J.B. Pritzker today that the Division of Forensic Services had cut the backlog by 48% down to 4,857 pending assignments since March 1st, 2019.

Pritzker says that through the establishment of the Forensic Science Task Force and streamlined policies enacted by his administration, the DNA backlog reduction continues. ISP notes that the reduction was able to occur while 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.

The average age on forensic cases have reduced from 247 days down to 110 in November. The number of cases that are older than a year dipped from 1,329 in January down to just 186 in November. he number of pending sexual assault assignments that are more than six months old has gone from 1,059 in January to 280 in November.

ISP attributes the speed up in the process due to increased manpower, better use of current technology, using and purchasing new technology including robotics, and better accountability measures and standards.

ISP’s forensic division has been able to maintain an aggressive hiring plan with training courses for new 2021 forensic scientists in March and more coming by February 2022.

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 the 2020 Capital bill.

The ISP DFS unveiled the sexual assault kit tracking system, known as Checkpoint, before the statutory deadline this year. 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 state police also noted that they have increased turn around times in other areas of evidence collection. Fingerprinting identification and evidence, firearm evidence, and trace chemistry evidence analysis all had decreased turnaround times by at least 40% this year.