DNA crime analysis skewed by Baltimore City Police Department's failure to report data

Baltimore City Police fail to submit DNA reports, hobbling state agency's effort to track crime analysis

The Baltimore City Police Department did not report its DNA processing data to a state agency for the past two years, hobbling the agency's effort to track how well police crime labs handle crucial evidence in thousands of criminal cases, a state auditor reports.

"Crime Scene DNA Collection and Analysis Reporting By Law Enforcement Agencies" is not a formal audit, but a 49-page analysis of data that the state's 133 police agencies are required to report to the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention. The 49 pages track how quickly DNA evidence is processed by each agency, how often samples are collected, and other details, such as reimbursement to hospitals that process rape kits.

Designed to be reported every other year, it is the second report of its kind, but its count of 2,888 DNA tests is flawed: One quarter of the police agencies either did not report or submitted incomplete reports, the auditor says. Among these were Baltimore City and Prince George's County—the largest and second-largest departments.

In 2011, Baltimore reported nearly 1,500 instances of DNA collection; PG County almost half that many.

The reporting requirements amount to four straightforward questions:

1) the crimes for which crime scene DNA evidence is routinely collected

2) the number of cases in which crime scene DNA evidence samples were collected during the preceding year for each category of crime

3) the average time between crime scene DNA evidence submission and analysis results

4) the number of cases in which crime scene DNA evidence samples were submitted and not analyzed at the time of the study 

We reached out to Baltimore Police for comment but did not immediately hear back.

The city's DNA analysis has come under fire before. The crime lab's chief was fired in 2008, the Innocence Project called for a federal investigation, and the department reportedly received a million-dollar grant to improve its speed in processing DNA evidence in 2011.  

If someone from the department tells us what happened after that, we'll update this blog.

Click here for more from Edward Ericson Jr. or email Edward at eericson@citypaper.com

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