Overtime reduction creates backlog in evidence testing
Wes Woods II, Staff Writer
Created: 07/19/2010 06:19:48 PM PDT

Budget cuts that reduced overtime have slowed the analysis of narcotics evidence by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and the police in Pomona and La Verne have noticed the effects.

“Routine narcotics evidence that has been sent to the crime lab has gone from taking a week to taking two to three weeks or sometimes more to get it back,” said Pomona police Sgt. Rob Baker on Monday.

“The blood alcohol evidence on a DUI normally takes a week. Now it’s taking two weeks or more for its return. So it’s had some impact on us here.”

Sheriff Lee Baca recently wrote in a report to the county Board of Supervisors, “The department continues to experience operational impacts, especially within critical support and investigative units.”

Baca said his department formerly had handled the heavy narcotics evidence load by having analysts work overtime.

Tony Bell, spokesman for county Supervisor Michael Antonovich, said the state’s failure to pass a budget has impacted every school district, city and county in the state.

“So obviously our office is disappointed with the fact that crucial investigations are delayed,” Bell said.

“But we credit the Sheriff’s Department for prioritizing the basic emergency response and patrols in our unincorporated areas that are essential for our constituents for protection of life and property.”

Antonovich’s 5th District includes Claremont, La Verne and San Dimas.

Last year the average backlog, before the cuts, was 256 cases, according to the Associated Press. That number has more than tripled, sheriff’s officials said, growing to 920 unanalyzed cases.

Baca recently cut overtime expenses as part of a $128million budget reduction.

The Sheriff’s Department has also a backlog of more than 100 fingerprints waiting to be compared and analyzed in collaboration with a statewide database.

In La Verne, tickets for court dates that used to be written for 30 days out for people arrested on suspicion of having a controlled substance such as meth, coke or heroin are now written for 60 days to be safe.

“It allows for the crime lab to get our results back,” said La Verne police Capt. Michael Wiggins.

“But on the other hand I will say the other day we had a large case, something we were doing, we took 30 kilos down and got the result in one day.”

Wiggins said the longer turnaround time in getting results back was implemented about six months ago.

“There was some communication with agencies that there may be an additional delay. To be honest I don’t recall an actual memo. It may have come from the lab,” Wiggins said.

With DNA evidence, Wiggins said his department has a contract with another lab if the matter is pressing.

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