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Price of solving LAPD fingerprint backlog $3 million, official says

The Los Angeles Police Department would need to put together as much as $3 million to pay for the overtime required to clear a backlog of unanalyzed fingerprints, a top police official said Tuesday.

With prints from about 3,575 cases awaiting analysis and city officials continuing to refuse requests from the LAPD to hire more fingerprint analysts, Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese told the L.A. Police Commission Tuesday. He said that finding a way to pay for the overtime was the LAPD's only realistic option for clearing the backlog.

Albanese was briefing the commission on the department's ongoing efforts to address the print backlog, which The Times wrote about in July.

At the time, Albanese announced a rationing plan meant to stem the tide of incoming cases that was adding to the backlog by the day. Under the terms of the plan, each of the LAPD's 21 area police stations are required to designate 10 property-related investigations each month to receive prompt print analysis. All other cases are put aside and, most likely, left untouched.

The early indications are that the rationing is having its intended effect, as the lab has been able to test the prints and return the work to detectives within two months.

That, however, has done nothing to alleviate the backlog. Albanese broke the untested cases into three categories and told commissioners the amount of overtime that would be needed to clear each. 

There are 793 property-related cases with untested prints from 2010 and 2011 that would cost about $330,000 in overtime to clear, Albanese said. And, so far this year, the LAPD's beleaguered Latent Print Unit has tallied 2,012 more cases in need of testing, requiring another $881,000. Officials, however, expect that number to drop somewhat since they have not yet inventoried the 2012 cases to determine how many have already been solved or otherwise closed without print work. And, finally, prints from 674 cold-case homicides are awaiting analysis. The prints from those cases, Albanese said, would cost about $1.8 million to complete.

There is  no funding in the LAPD's budget to pay for the overtime. Albanese said the department was continuing to look for sources of cash.

Since the city imposed a hiring freeze in 2009 as a cost-saving measure, the fingerprint unit has lost 27 of its 97 analysts. Over the next five years, 20% of the unit is expected to retire, officials said. Additionally, furloughs that are part of the city's attempt to close a budget shortfall have exacerbated the problem, as have the neck and back injuries that analysts commonly suffer from long hours hunched over desks staring at prints through magnifying glasses. 

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-- Joel Rubin at LAPD headquarters

 

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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