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Grant to reduce backlog of firearms exams at crime lab
by Tribune Staff
Dec 08, 2010 | 549 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RENO — The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Crime Lab has been awarded a $173,488 Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement grant that will help significantly reduce an existing backlog of more than 460 firearms examinations.

The grant will be used to hire a contract firearms examiner to train a newly hired firearms examiner trainee, perform technical review of casework and help with the completion of backlogged cases.

The Washoe County Crime Lab is the only crime lab in the 14 northern counties of Nevada, providing services to more than 80 agencies. A steady increase in cases combined with last year’s departure of the lab’s firearms examiner has resulted in a backlog of more than 460 cases.

Many of the backlogged cases are from the lab’s Integrated Ballistic Identification System database, which identifies possible links to other crimes locally and nationally in order to help solve, reduce and prevent firearms-related crimes. Many of these links would never be identified without this technology.

Currently, the lab’s supervising criminalist is the only person able to provide this type of examination for the 14 counties served by the crime lab. The situation is further complicated by the need for technical review of the work done by the examiner. Since the supervisor cannot review her own work, cases are sent to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Forensic Laboratory for review, adding to the turnaround time for casework completion.

After a fruitless nationwide search, the lab decided the best way would be to hire a firearms examiner trainee and train that person in-house.

The grant also allows for continued funding of a part-time integrated ballistic identification system technician to address the backlog of cases needing to be entered into the firearms database.

This grant provides the funding necessary for the lab to make significant progress toward reducing the existing backlog of firearms investigation cases and improve service to criminal investigations in the 14 counties served.

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