Crime lab aims to reduce turnaround time

By Cheryl Mercedes - bio | email

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A change in strategy has only been in place for about six months, but it's already getting results for the State Police Crime Lab.  

It's called "Lean Six Sigma," a business improvement project that has changed the daily operations of the crime lab.

When evidence is brought in, it is screened, sampled, extracted, measured and quantified to create a profile.

Before the process begins, there's a lot of discussion.

"We talk about what we did the previous day and any areas we can improve," said Captain Layne Barnum. "Everyday there is knowledge sharing between the whole team."  He says production meetings have cut out what he calls wasted time in the crime lab.

"Some days we were putting out 2 or 3 cases a day, our goal now is to do 8," added Barnum.

Their progress and ideas are posted on charts that now line the walls of the crime lab, but it's not just the new business method that's getting the job done.  State Police Colonel Mike Edmondson says it takes the right team, training and funding from state government.

"What transpired after the Beauregard murder that a matter of hours, three years ago it took months," said Edmondson. "We went from months around a year ago, we were at weeks and now down to hours."

In the last three years, the backlog has shrunk from nearly 2,000 cases to 339.  The goal is to eventually get to a point where there is no backlog at all.

"I want to be where customers are happy, the law enforcement agencies, to where they are getting almost or near real time results," said Barnum.

"To me, a rape kit sitting on a shelf for more than a day, one day is too many," said Edmondson.

The Nation Institute of Justice is helping fund some of the changes.

The Louisiana State Police Crime Lab was only one of six crime labs in the country to get the grant.

Captain Barnum says he hopes to get to a point where the lab is turning 12 to 15 cases each day.

Copyright 2010 WAFB. All rights reserved.