Staff shortage at State Crime Lab impacts case clearances - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Staff shortage at State Crime Lab impacts case clearances

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
PEARL, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Despite a new state of the art Medical Crime Laboratory, the backlog in cases continues; and it's not due to the lab itself. Instead it's because of a shortage of key staff needed to perform criminal examinations.        

In the last week, deaths from plane crashes to the discovery of skeletal remains are among the cases investigated at the state crime lab. But results may take longer as the medical examiners office probes these cases with fewer staff.

Officials with the Department of Public Safety say two medical examiners have left the agency since the new facility opened.

"You go from five doctors to three just like any other doctor's office handing 1,500 cases a year, you have that volume but fewer doctors," said Department of Public Safety spokesman Warren Strain. "So there is going to be somewhat of a slowdown in turning those cases around".

In addition to the loss of medical examiners, the number of forensic scientists has dropped from 110 statewide to 88.

Medical examiners are physicians who perform postmortem examinations to determine cause and manner of death.

Forensic scientists investigate crimes by collecting and analyzing physical evidence. 

We are told the backlog in cases vary in the two departments but are mainly in firearms because of the increase in crimes so far this year.  

"Also losing those 22 additional people in the staff levels for the crime laboratory you combine that and the case loads that are coming in. It's just a huge volume and again crime investigations you can not take shortcuts," added Strain.

The state medical examiners office budget is $2.5 million dollars a year.

The state crime lab budget is about $10 million dollars annually.

Strain said a nationwide search has been underway for several months to fill the specialized medical examiner and forensic scientist positions. 

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