CBI to solve backlogged forensic cases

Despite years of asking, the Colorado Bureau of Investigations was unable to get what it desperately needed from the Colorado Legislature to address a mounting backlog of forensic cases at its Grand Junction office.

So top officials in the CBI’s Denver headquarters decided to handle the matter in the only way they could: reprioritize staffing.

As a result, the Grand Junction office soon will have four new positions to handle more laboratory work, some of which came about from retiring workers at other CBI offices.

“CBI overall has seen a lot of cuts, so these actually are not new positions,” said David Linnertz, division director of the Grand Junction CBI office. “This takes our fingerprint staff from one person to four, which is pretty significant. With the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office ... and two transfers from Denver, it also will take our DNA staff from two DNA analysts with no support to five overall.”

One of those DNA workers actually works for the Sheriff’s Department, spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said.

The sheriff approved hiring its first DNA analyst two years ago to help the CBI handle its backlog of cases, but because of various constraints, that new lab worker was hired only a couple of weeks ago, Benjamin said.

That new worker is undergoing training required by the CBI and is expected to start testing samples sometime this summer.

“Her job is to give local cases priority,” Benjamin said of the new analyst. “However, we recognize that by providing her to CBI, we do help reduce the backlog that they have, which helps us, too.”

Benjamin was unaware of the other new CBI workers, but said the sheriff isn’t likely to eliminate its new analyst as a result.

Linnertz said that while the new helpers will make a big difference in assisting the CBI office, there’s another new addition that will help.

Like many of the new workers who must undergo certification and training before they can start this summer, that’s about the same time the office’s new “DNA robot” will start work.

The new machine, which can test more than 60 DNA samples at once, came from a $300,000 federal grant awarded to the agency last year.

The Denver and Pueblo offices also received the new devices, said Lance Clem, the CBI’s chief spokesman in Denver.

The new machines are going through an intensive certification process to make sure they function at acceptable national forensic standards, he said.

“The problem has been there’s a greater demand for CBI work than agents to handle the cases,” Clem said of the Grand Junction office.

“This should take care of a lot of the forensic backlog. Now if we only could get them more investigators.”

The office now employs 17 lab workers, but only five investigators and one supervisor.


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