North Dakota Crime Lab Understaffed in 2018, State Audit Suggests Solutions

Local News

An audit of the North Dakota State Crime Lab found while their workload is increasing, their staff is decreasing.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says they had to cut three key employees in 2017. The Governor required every agency to cut their budgets down five percent.

Since then, the lab has seen a spike in DNA testing, double from years past. The AG says this is great news for solving crimes, but not great news for the victims in many of these cases, waiting for justice.

This year, North Dakota lawmakers approved the addition of one more DNA Analyst.

When the cuts were made, the lab had a record-high turnaround time for DNA: over 200 days. Now they’re down to 116, and Stenehjem hopes with the new Analyst starting July 1st, they can get the turnaround time down to 30 or 60 days.

The North Dakota Attorney General adds, “It’s essential for the DNA, especially if it’s a homicide or a sexual assault. This could be somebody out committing other crimes.”

Another suggestion from the audit is to charge law enforcement for DNA testing. The AG says he’s very hesitant to do so because it could discourage police from bringing in crucial evidence.

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