AUSTIN - On Tuesday the Public Safety Commission unanimously approved a resolution to recommend four items to the City Council as they consider their budget.
The recommendation came after the commission members heard reports from the Austin Police Department and other groups including the Austin Commission for Women.
APD Assistant Chief Tony Gay answered questions about the shut down of the DNA lab in June and explained that the measure was taken after the Forensic Science Commission raised concerns about a lack of properly trained supervision.
That left the city with a backlog of more than 1,500 cases.
"The forensics community has such an impact in the court system," Gay said. "It plays a very vital role in the overall concept of our justice system so we put it at a high priority."
Gay told the commission that APD is currently retraining their staff with the help of other agencies like the Department of Public Safety. Their goal is to have the staff re-trained and have hired new management to reopen the lab by February 2017.
In the meantime, the PSC wanted to make changes that could help reduce the back log sooner.
APD has already been outsourcing some of the cases to other agencies, including the DPS, but the PSC wants city council to go further.
They recommended the following:
- $5.6 million be approved to outsource the remaining backlog of cases immediately.
- $1.4 million be granted to APD to hire seven new DNA lab analysts and a supervisor.
- Require that all rape kits be tested and returned within four weeks or be sent to another lab if that cannot be achieved.
- Require that the DNA lab operates without a backlog going forward.
"I think the recommendation is great," Gay said. "It is going to allow our lab to actually train the necessary people so we can get out. We'll have plenty scientists that are in a decision making role that will provide the necessary governance and oversight that we need at APD."
(© 2016 KVUE)