Wednesday, March 30, 2011

State Police Commissioner: New DNA Testing Would Swamp Dept.

A new bill expanding Pennsylvania’s DNA testing is raising logistical concerns for the Commonwealth’s acting State Police Commissioner.

The measure, authored by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, would collect DNA samples from people arrested for felonies and eight misdemeanors. The legislation broadens the scope of crimes leading to automatic DNA tests. It also shifts the timing of the swabbing, from after a conviction to after arrest. The bill would require the destruction of DNA samples for people found “not guilty.”

Governor Tom Corbett , Pennsylvania's former Attorney General, hasn't decided if he would sign the measure if it's passed.

"I don’t have a problem with a database of somebody who has been arrested and convicted. I think they have to be convicted. I haven’t read the bill so give me fair comment, but my personal opinion: if somebody is arrested, if you’re going to take DNA it has to be -- arrested, take the DNA, but it goes in a database after conviction."

At a recent budget hearing, Acting Commissioner Frank Noonan said the legislation would increase Pennsylvania’s DNA processing caseloads by 400 percent. “We will need about 35 analysts. The equipment’s very expensive. We would have to consume other equipment, as well as a facility,” he said. “And the one thing – I would just like to caution it is not something that people could say, ‘ok, go and do it,’ and we could just flip a switch. … It would take at least a year for us to get ready. It takes at least a year to train these analysts. So it’s something that – if we do decide to do it it has to be planned, there has to be a planned growth to our DNA laboratory.”

Noonan says the increase could cost more than $13 million dollars. A Pileggi spokesman is skeptical of the estimate, saying other states have made similar transitions at a cost of less than $2 million.

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