KING 5 News has learned of what could be serious staffing shortages at the Washington State Patrol’s six crime labs.
There’s a shortage of forensic scientists who perform DNA tests at the State Patrol’s six crime labs across Washington.
“It’s definitely more difficult at this time than it ever has been,” said DNA Technical Manager Gary Shutler of the problems caused by the staffing shortage.
Shutler said the labs already have five open positions for forensic scientists and seven more scientists are expected to take maternity leave soon.
That’s nearly a quarter of the 45 or so scientists that handle DNA testing for the labs. The shortage comes after a record-breaking year for the crime labs.
“2012 was a banner year for us,” said Shutler. “The last data I heard was 404 'hits' which as a tremendous success." A “hit” is any case in which the DNA test reveals a suspect who was not previously connected to the crime.
The lab has also worked hard to reduce a DNA backlog that peaked at 1,400 cases. Right now that backlog stands at 700 cases.
That downward trend could reverse without additional help.
The lab says several experienced scientists left for higher paying jobs elsewhere.
One key state senator told KING 5 there isn’t money is the budget to allow the State Patrol to increase the salary for its forensic scientists.