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DNA backlog contract on the way

Wednesday, November 2, 2016 by Jo Clifton

City Council is set to authorize an interlocal agreement with Dallas County’s Southwestern Institute of Forensic Services for a $1.6 million contract to assist the Austin Police Department in dealing with its DNA backlog. The contract is in response to an outcry during the September budget passage about APD’s failure to deal with an extensive backlog of sexual assault kits. The contract has five 12-month extension options for a total estimated contract amount of $3.6 million over five years. APD Chief of Staff Brian Manley told City Council during Tuesday’s work session that APD intends to use the money to clear up the backlog. However, if there is still money left over when those kits have been tested, APD would like to be able to get the lab to do forensic analysis on other kinds of cases. Manley also told Council that APD’s lab, which was shut down due to evidence of irregularities, will probably open in mid-2017. However, he said the department wants to meet with the new Travis County district attorney after that person takes office in January to discuss which lab will be processing future forensic evidence. Council Member Greg Casar, who has been pushing APD to erase its backlog of untested rape kits, told the Austin Monitor after the Council meeting that he was not entirely satisfied with the answers the Council got from Manley. “I think it’s really important for us to clear that backlog as quickly as possible, and I think we need a concrete plan to do so,” Casar said. “We’re going to follow up with more questions to see how much of that plan has been developed up to this point. My understanding from (Manley’s) answer is that there is more work that needs to be done to get a firm plan in place. But I would like to hear as much of a plan as possible between now and Thursday. It’s a really important issue.”

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