Rapid DNA: On the Cusp of a Revolution in Public Safety

Rapid DNA Identification is the fully-automated generation and interpretation of DNA fingerprints in less than two hours, outside the lab, by non-technical users. The goals of Rapid DNA Identification are to quickly exonerate the innocent and solve crimes in order to make society safer. Up until now, DNA analysis of crime scene samples has been performed in sophisticated labs stocked with expensive equipment and staffed by highly trained scientists. The labs have done a fantastic job developing DNA technology. The problem is that sheer volume of samples that require processing has grown exponentially.

As a country, we are falling farther and farther behind in DNA testing. Forensic DNA labs are overwhelmed, despite recent and substantial expansions and increases in technical personnel. As the National Institute of Justice explains, “(t)he demand for DNA testing is rising because everyone is becoming more aware of the potential of DNA evidence to help solve cases. The increased demand for DNA testing comes from two primary sources: (1) the increased amount of DNA evidence that is collected in criminal cases and (2) the expanded effort to collect DNA samples from convicted felons and arrested persons.”

With few exceptions, laboratory DNA analysis requires weeks, months or — in some jurisdictions — years. This leads to case backlogs and increases the time required to solve crimes. Millions of samples are not submitted or even collected because the results come too late to have a real impact on the investigation. The result of these delays is that is takes longer to solve crimes — and, most importantly, those responsible remain on the street and can commit more crimes.

We are a great nation of good people; it is a very small percentage of people — the repeat criminals, professional criminals — that must be stopped. Law Enforcement needs a new approach to solve the DNA evidence problem. I believe that Rapid DNA using the ANDE system is that new approach. The technology has been developed over the course of the last decade and has been subjected to rigorous scientific review and testing. Over the coming months and years, the application of Rapid DNA to exonerate the innocent, solve crimes, and improve public safety will become much more common; eventually, Rapid DNA will become routine.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle have spoken out in favor of the application of Rapid DNA to improve public safety. For example, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (in a press release Issued by Senator Orrin Hatch, June 17, 2016) said, “Rapid DNA technology would give law enforcement the ability to identify suspects of violent crimes more accurately and more quickly, it would help us reduce our DNA backlogs, and it would better protect innocent men and women from being wrongfully accused of crimes.” Attorney General Sessions, at his Senate confirmation hearing of January 12, 2017, said “Rapid DNA Analysis is a hugely important issue for the whole American criminal justice system. It presents tremendous opportunities to solve crimes in an effective way and can produce justice…one of the biggest bottlenecks of all of our laws involving prosecutions of criminal activity is the bottleneck of scientific analysis… all of this slows down and stop cases that should long since have been brought forward and disposed of.”

With so much support for and momentum behind Rapid DNA, I believe that is important for the public to understand what the technology is, how it came to be, and how it can be carefully and fairly implemented to help society. Welcome to my blog, and I look forward to covering these topics in the months and years to come.

Originally published at drrichardselden.net on March 6, 2017.

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