Funding bill would benefit crime lab
New microscopes, computers and more training could help reduce a chronic backlog of evidence waiting to be analyzed at the Honolulu Police Department's crime lab.
That is why forensic laboratory supervisor Wayne Kimoto and 40 other crime lab employees welcome $250,000 in federal cash that might head into their coffers.
On Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that includes $985,000 in funding requested by U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie. The bill will be under Senate review before being passed to the president for approval.
Of that, $250,000 would go toward the state's only forensic laboratory, which also serves the FBI, military, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Attorney's Office and Guam, Saipan and American Samoa police.
"It's been pretty difficult to get rid of backlog because of the services we provide to everyone," Kimoto said.
Depending on the unit -- DNA, firearms, automobiles -- the backlog could extend from days to several months, Kimoto said.
Kimoto said although a budget for the possible influx of money has yet to be outlined, he named more microscopes, genetic analyzers and computers as things the lab could use.
The bill would also provide $250,000 for the Hawaii Innocence Project, launched in 2005 to investigate and litigate cases where there is compelling evidence of innocence.
Potential clients are screened at the California Western School of Law, then referred to law school students at the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law.
"Students get real court experience along with the potential to dramatically change a person's life," Abercrombie said. "If the program ... proves to be worthwhile, the University of Hawaii law school could eventually take over all responsibilities."
The bill also funds:
» $150,000 for the Domestic Violence Clearinghouse and Legal Hotline, a nonprofit agency providing services to families in danger of violence.
» $335,000 for a "Zero to Three" program at the Oahu Circuit Court. The program intends to raise awareness regarding the needs of maltreated infants.