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Extra staff, technology helps KCPD Crime Lab drop case backlog by half

Kansas City Police Crime Lab
Posted at 5:55 PM, May 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-05 23:45:17-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department Crime Laboratory is catching up on a years-long case backlog.

"We always let survivors know when they're making the decision that's best for them, that the criminal justice process is not a quick process," said Victoria Pickering, director of advocacy for the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA).

While the good news is the wait will be much shorter, DNA processing takes time.

"There were times where our violent crime backlog was 8 or 9 months, and non-violents could be a year and a half to two years," said Jennifer Howard, DNA supervisor of KCPD's Crime Lab.

But Howard says the process looks much different now.

"It's really a huge weight sort of lifted off of everyone because we try so hard and want to get as many cases out as we can," she said. "You see the backlog of 1,000 cases on your shoulders, it can feel heavy."

The crime lab's new machines help speed up the process — something that can be difficult, even triggering, for sexual assault survivors, whose cases make up 20% of the lab's DNA.

"Their body is treated as a crime scene ... at the bare minimum, they deserve to know that kit is going to be tested," Pickering said. "And that's the case in Kansas and Missouri now."

Catching up on the backlog mean's Howards team can now "work cases as they're coming in instead of months later," per the supervisor.