Wisconsin law enforcement is keeping its eye on some new equipment that could help them solve crimes like never before.
Instead of taking days to process DNA in a lab, the new technology lets investigators do it on scene in minutes, but opponents say it’s costly, in more ways than one.
On its website, IntegenX Inc. raves the machine, called Rapid DNA can process samples in 90 minutes, rather than months, like in some labs.
Wisconsin’s Department of Justice is particularly interested in it. Deputy Administrator David Zibolski says, “It’s definitely on the cutting edge because of the fact it isn’t even out fully in the marketplace yet.”
The machine is still in its testing stage, waiting on approval from the United States Department of Justice.
“It’s the next integration in technology that’s going to help law enforcement solve crimes quicker, prevent future victimization and I think it’s just the next step once it gets properly validated and researched,” said Zibolski.
Zibolski said grants could help pay the machine’s $250,000 price tag, but the American Civil Liberties Union Wisconsin Chapter’s executive director said there’s a bigger cost.
“We think that it’s a good opportunity to better collect data from crime scenes, but we wouldn’t want to see the devices used to collect data from suspects without a warrant,” explained ACLU’s Chris Ahmudty.
In Palm Bay, Florida, the Police Department is the only one in the country to partner with IntegenX, but has experimented with rapid DNA testing for years.
Palm Bay’s Deputy Chief John Blackledge said his department’s tests resulted in 500 fewer burglaries in a four-year span and he supports the machine.
The Police Department received the unit last year and has been doing validation testing on it ever since.
Blackledge said it took 11 months to process DNA in a lab for a recent murder case. In Wisconsin, the DOJ said it can take about 30 days -- still longer than the proposed 90 minutes.
“That would be that much quicker that law enforcement could identify a suspect from a crime scene or eliminate a suspect, and again, it provides a much better resource for law enforcement,” said Zibolski.
The ACLU is also opposed to a new state law that while it broadens the DNA database, it also allows law enforcement to take samples from felony suspects, rather than people who have been convicted of a crime.
But it will be two years before that’s implemented -- the same amount of time the DOJ suspects the Rapid DNA machine might be approved.