TBI needs more funding for new DNA measure - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Jason Miles

TBI needs more funding for new DNA measure

Lawmakers adopted a new measure that allows the state to take DNA from people charged with a violent felony.

It was supposed to go into effect January First. But the TBI says it can't handle the extra workload without more funding.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation currently processes 14-thousand DNA samples a year. They expect that number to triple with the new law.

The TBI calls it a massive undertaking.

"We estimate another 23,000 arrests, so that takes up to 38,000 to 40,000 samples per year that our labs are going to have to deal with," TBI Spokeswoman Kristin Helm said.

The TBI hired six additional forensic scientists earlier this year to eliminate a growing backlog of samples at the TBI lab.

DNA processing took several months but now it only takes a matter of weeks.

"Now that we have those additional people in place, we need to maintain this current turnaround time that we have. Otherwise it's going to go back to being months and months before local law enforcement agencies get results back," Helm said.

The TBI says even more scientists will be needed to handle the work brought on by the new law at a cost of one-million dollars a year. But, lawmakers didn't allocate money for the additional expense.

"The agreement was that once you got rid of the backlog that would free up these six agents, plus the other ones already there, and they could handle this with existing agents," Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey said.

Ramsey says the new DNA law is necessary saying lawmakers would talk about giving extra funding to the project during the next legislative session.

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