A few days ago Jan Burke, she of the leet writing skillz and founder of The Crime Lab Project pointed out that it is DNA Awareness Month here in California.
I don't know how well this stacks up against Breast Cancer, HIV, or even Dengue Fever Awareness Month, but it's something that everyone should know about.
Jan makes the argument that the California Department of Justice's Bureau of Forensic Services located in Richmond, California needs substantially more funding, and gives some numbers to back up her assertions. I like numbers. Sometimes they make me feel warm and cozy. More often they make me feel nauseous and scared. These numbers, for example:
According to a recent article by Henry Weinstein in the Los Angeles Times, "the starting salary at the Richmond lab is $3,100, compared with $4,600 a month at the Los Angeles Police Department laboratory and $4,200 a month at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department." And in a story on this backlog in the Riverside Press-Enterprise, Paul DeCarlo reports, "Their counterparts at the San Bernardino County sheriff's scientific investigations division, who enter DNA profiles of most Riverside County cases as well, earn about $8,667 per month."Essentially, the California DOJ lab is losing people left and right because they can get better salaries somewhere else.
There's a backlog of 300,000 DNA samples that this lab is currently handling. So they sit, lonely and forlorn, just waiting to be processed. Poor samples.
There are a lot of problems with forensic science that has nothing to do with science. Lack of resources, lack of funding, lack of enough samples, poor collection techniques, mistakes, idiots and the dreaded CSI Effect. Some of these we can fix, some of these we can't.
But maybe during DNA Awareness Month we can all be more, I dunno, aware? And whine at our state senators and make them more aware, too. And go hug a forensic pathologist while you're at it. They need love, too.