Governor Martin O'Malley announced Maryland's success in reducing the number of untested and uncollected DNA samples from convicted felons, known as the DNA backlog, which had grown to over 24,000 by the end of 2006. Under the O'Malley-Brown Administration, the Maryland State Police has eliminated the number of samples waiting to be shipped to an outside vendor for analysis and is on pace to eliminate the DNA backlog by February 2008.
"Public safety is the most important responsibility our government has," said Governor O'Malley. "By filling long-vacant positions, increasing funding and support for Maryland's DNA crime lab, and bringing together those agencies responsible for public safety, we are giving our local and state police officers an essential tool to help protect our families and communities."
Earlier this year, Governor O'Malley created DNAStat as part of StateStat to track the progress toward eliminating the DNA backlogs on a weekly, rather than yearly, basis.
To date, the Maryland State Police has cleared the backlog of 24,300 samples waiting to be sent to an outside vendor for analysis, and has increased the number of samples in the DNA database by 30%, from 28,567 in March, 2007 to 37,088 in June. In addition, this year, the number of positive DNA matches (or "hits") is 162, including the 92 since DNAStat began, and the state police lab is on track to exceed the total of 220 for all of 2006.
The DNA lab has also uploaded nearly 10,000 samples this year - already breaking the 4,963 that were uploaded last year.
Under a new partnership between the Maryland State Police and Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, 97% of the 591 Division of Corrections inmates who owed DNA samples had their DNA collected, and at least 650 employees of the Division of Parole and Probation will be trained to collect DNA samples by the beginning of August. This is the result of new emergency regulations submitted by the O'Malley-Brown Administration and approved by the Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review Committee to allow additions state personnel to take DNA samples.
"This year, we have made great strides to improve public safety in Maryland, and the DNA lab is a critical tool as we move forward," said Col. Terrence Sheridan, Secretary of the Maryland State Police. "We could not have made this progress without the support of Secretary Maynard and the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, and we look forward to working together to improve public safety in Maryland."
"We have a strong obligation to protect the citizens of Maryland," said Gary Maynard, Secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. "By eliminating the DNA backlog and working together with the Maryland State Police, we are able to fulfill our core mission to safeguard the public."
In addition to creating DNAStat and the new partnership between the Maryland State Police and Department of Public Safety, the State has invested significant resources in the Maryland State Police Forensic Science Laboratory, including:
- Hiring four more forensic scientists in the Fiscal Year 2008 budget, and approving overtime pay in the DNA lab.
- Increasing base salaries, which helped fill long-standing vacant positions in the DNA lab.
- Adding $800,000 to fund long-standing equipment needs; and
- Passing emergency regulations enabling additional state personnel to collect DNA samples.
Working with the General Assembly, Governor O'Malley also signed into law legislation to require the Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene to license, set standards and requirements for forensic laboratories in Maryland. It also requires that the Governor establish a Forensic Laboratory Advisory Committee to advise the Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene on implementing the bill's provisions. The appointments must be made by December 1, 2008.