State needs to do more to help crime lab
West Virginia is among states that have made gratifying progress in reducing backlogs in laboratory testing of evidence in criminal cases. Unfortunately, there still are waiting lists for law enforcement agencies.
As the Bluefield Daily Telegraph pointed out recently, the backlog of DNA testing at the State Police Crime Lab was 4,886 cases four years ago. It has been reduced to about 1,700 cases.
That was in part because state legislators in 2016 approved supplemental funding for the lab. But authorization for added financial resources will expire next year.
Even with some new money, the crime lab has not been able to move as expeditiously as it should. As the Bluefield paper noted, one means of decreasing the backlog was a crime lab policy limiting the number of pieces of evidence that can be tested in some cases. That can make prosecuting criminals more difficult.
Legislators should renew the five-year supplemental funding measure — and add meaningful resources to it to permit the crime lab to serve as the resource local law enforcement agencies need.
Can the state budget, already stressed, handle more funding for the crime lab? That is not the important question. It is, rather, whether West Virginia can afford not to fund the crime lab adequately.