Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



SALEM — A backlog of untested forensic evidence at Oregon State Police laboratories has ballooned by 90 percent in the past decade, fueled by increased demand, inefficient practices and staff shortages and vacancies, according to a secretary of state audit.

On average, the agency’s Forensics Division takes about twice as long to test forensic evidence than national standards, according to the audit. “The quality and reliability of forensic testing is extremely important to the criminal justice system,” auditors wrote. “If the best evidence is not submitted in court, the guilty may go unpunished or an innocent person may lose their liberty.”

Auditors said the Forensics Division has already taken steps to increase efficiency with technology investments and process changes. They recommended additional strategies to enhance the flow of casework and to eliminate duplication of work. For instance, they recommended more strategic planning such as using data to manage workloads and project needs for additional resources.

OSP laboratories take an average of 65 days to test evidence, according to the audit. The National Institute of Justice standards call for evidence to be tested within 30 days. But auditors also noted that backlogs also are a problem in other parts of the nation.

Oregon’s backlog now stands about 3,700 cases. In 2014, OSP received 29, 500 requests for testing. The demand for testing has surged by 31 percent since 2005 with only “marginal” staff increases, the audit stated.

The audit was “substantially complete before allegations were publicly reported” that a forensic analyst in the division had tampered with evidence, auditors wrote. They said employees had disclosed no criminal behavior during the audit.

A criminal investigation into the allegations is underway. Nika Larsen, a forensic analyst in OSP’s Bend office, has been identified as a suspect in the case.

Gov. Kate Brown also has appointed a work group to review the division’s practices and procedures for evidence control.

The division has 127 employees, five laboratories in Bend, Central Point, Clackamas, Pendleton and Springfield and a biennial budget of $35.8 million.

By Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau Reporter
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