BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Louisiana State Police Crime Lab is one the most efficient crime labs in the country in terms of turn-around time in processing DNA analysis requests for law enforcement cases.
In 2010, the LSP crime lab overhauled its lab practices to make processing DNA more efficient. 9News spoke with the DNA manager of the crime lab to find out more about their work.
Dr. Joanie Brocato says there are five basic steps to processing DNA: collecting, extracting, quantifying, amplifying, and detecting. The evidence is usually collected by a crime lab evidence specialist or is sent in from a law enforcement agency in the state.
Specialists then extract the DNA from the evidence and quantify how much DNA is in the sample. Next, the DNA is amplified by making a chemical copy of the DNA sample. Brocato says it's during this process that the DNA is detected. The sample is then run through a genetic analyzer.
For high-priority cases, the crime lab can process a DNA sample in about 9 to 12 hours because it has enough staff to divide up the necessary work or as Brocato says, "pass the baton on between steps." This allows the crime lab to service law enforcement agencies in real time. In normal cases, the five steps are divided up over a couple of days.
Brocato explains with DNA, it's extremely difficult to process a sample if there is only a small amount of it. The quality of the sample is also a factor. Brocato says it's especially difficult to get a DNA sample from evidence like shell casings because the shell heats up when it's fired from a gun and could deteriorate the sample. District Attorney Hillar Moore says it's very rare that law enforcement agencies can obtain a sample from bullets.
The LSP Crime Lab mainly services police departments and sheriff's offices in the Greater Baton Rouge Area and Orleans Parish, but the lab can help any law enforcement agencies in the State of Louisiana. Some areas like Calcasieu Parish have their own crime lab.