The Guilford County Sheriff’s Department is shutting down a “rapid DNA” analysis program that the county has used since 2016. Guilford County Sheriff Danny Rogers issued a press release on Monday, March 25, stating that the department will instead begin using the State of North Carolina’s DNA lab or using private companies – which, he said, will produce more accurate results that can be used in a court of law unlike the results from the department’s machine.
In North Carolina, there are huge backlogs for DNA evidence sent in by local law enforcement agencies. In 2016, the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department purchased its own machine in response to that problem – however, Rogers says that the program, implemented under former Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes, was ineffective and yielded unreliable results.
Sheriff’s officials also argue that the department can use the state’s lab or, if they need to be expedited, can use private labs where samples can be examined on an accredited machine for less than the cost of the current in-house process.
“In lieu of utilizing the current machine, the use of private ACCREDITED laboratories is in the opinion of Sheriff Rogers the most appropriate, economic and most direct path to justice for the victims,” the press release states.
Rogers has now directed his staff to begin sending that evidence to a private lab and have the results expedited when appropriate. He said in the press release that this will provide victims with the best chance of getting the evidence in front of a judge or jury when the time comes.
Rogers states in the release that the move will save county taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. So far, according to Rogers, Guilford County has spent more than $600,000 on its in-house rapid DNA program.
The press release states that the machine the Sheriff’s Department purchased is not accredited, findings from it could not be admitted in court, and – in the time since the machine was purchased in 2016 – only seven suspects have been identified or ruled out through the use of the machine.
The press release also states that the department conducted “an in-depth review of this program” before making the decision.
“The Guilford County Sheriff’s Office DNA machine is not an accredited machine,” the press release reads. “The results from this equipment is not accepted by the District Attorney’s Office without it coming from an accredited lab. NO FINDINGS rendered by this equipment could have been entered in a court of law and resulted in a suspect being convicted. This equipment has been used to analyze evidence to ‘determine’ if the agency should seek evidence testing from an outside lab.”
Department officials argue that the process of sending the evidence to an accredited lab to get results can be expedited – so in reality, they say, there may be only a difference of a few days between what the in-house machine can deliver and what an accredited lab can offer.
The press release from the Sheriff’s Department also states that there had been no convictions that were based solely on the results from the rapid DNA machine.