Illinois State Police officials said the agency has made progress to reduce the backlog of DNA evidence that needs to be tested in criminal cases across the state and said lawmakers can help speed up the process.
During a hearing this week in a state Senate committee, state Sen. Patricia Van Pelt, D-Chicago, said the delay in processing DNA evidence hurts everyone.
“We’re faced with the fact that we know that there’s a lot of DNA evidence that’s not being analyzed and as a result, we walk among murderers,” Van Pelt said. “We know we’re walking among murders.”
Carrie Ward, with the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, told the committee that delays in processing DNA evidence delay justice, and justice delayed is justice denied.
“If we want victims to report to law enforcement, if we want cases to move forward, if we want rapists to be prosecuted, if we want victims to begin the healing process, this backlog needs to be resolved,” she said.
Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly said the agency is working through the backlog of DNA evidence. The agency is also reworking the network of labs throughout the state.
“This is the day of Amazon,” Kelly said. “We can order things from China and have it here overnight. We should be able to test an item anywhere in the state. If that lab is ready to be tested and is running ahead of the curve send it to that lab, get it done, move the work around to where there are people able to do that work.”
Kelly said the agency is looking for the new lab site in Will County while also training more scientists and working to get DNA kit tracking available online.
He said lawmakers could consider changes to the state’s burdensome procurement rules to help with the backlog.
“The ability to procure these things like Rapid DNA quicker, the process it took to pay for the high throughput TK robotics was very onerous, and we hope to be able through the forensic science commission to come back to you with some recommendations about maybe some ways we can safely and thoughtfully provide some flexibility in procurement,” Kelly said.
Kelly said 7,700 DNA tests were pending.