Using technological advances to improve policing outcomes

As equipment and personnel costs rise and budgets become tighter, police departments often look to grants as a way to secure funding for the items they can’t afford. From vehicles to bullet proof vests and from in-car cameras to computers, funding resources can usually be found for even these most basic needs.

But departments need to also be aware of newer technologies that have the potential to dramatically improve the outcome of policing activities and increase public safety. Just as the implementation of radio dispatch was a vast improvement over streetside call boxes, today’s technological advances continue to provide police departments with valuable, updated resources.

One of the technologies currently available is the DNAscan Rapid DNA Analysis System from GE Healthcare Life Sciences and NetBio. It enables you to process a suspect’s DNA sample during the booking process to create a CODIS-compatible file that is then searched against a local database for matches.

It’s a fully automated, tabletop system that processes both mouth swabs and blood samples in less than 85 minutes. While not a complete analysis such as you would get from a DNA laboratory, the system does create a STR profile of the subject that gives you the ability to match that sample with those collected at crime scenes. Privacy and chain of custody are maintained through the system’s on-board security, and its overall design prevents sample mix-ups and contamination.

Research has clearly demonstrated the value of DNA for the positive identification of suspects. DNA analysis has aided in solving crimes, convicting the guilty, and exonerating the innocent. Using this equipment in-house while the suspect is in your custody can mean solving more crimes earlier than without it. Of course, negative results that don’t produce a match can also reduce the need for more expensive laboratory testing and better focus your resources where they will have the most value.

This year the US Supreme Court ruled that taking a DNA sample from an arrestee is no more intrusive than taking a fingerprint. However, not all states currently allow for the process to be done as a routine matter, so be sure you fully understand the regulations in your jurisdiction.

It is possible to acquire this technology through grant funding resources, including the federal government. In fact, within the last few years, federal grant opportunities have included DNA-specific programs among their solicitations. Examples are “Solving Cold Cases with DNA” and the “Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grant” from the Department of Justice. Other possibilities include Justice Assistance Grants and the COPS Community Policing Development program (also from USDOJ), state and local grants with a law enforcement perspective, and private corporate and family foundations.

Obviously the first step you need to take before deciding to apply for a grant is to ensure rapid DNA analysis is aligned with both your department’s strategic plan and that of the state. Gather a team from your leadership, forensic officers and investigators to determine the need for such equipment.

When applying for a grant, no matter which funder you choose, it’s very important to develop an in-depth project, which must include a detailed needs statement; how the project will be designed and implemented; how it will be monitored; and the anticipated outcomes. A budget should include not only the cost of the equipment but also any training and supplies that will be needed throughout the project period.

Information on finding grant opportunities and writing a grant application can be found on policegrantshelp.com.

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