Gov. Lee announces dozens new TBI forensic lab positions amid rape kit backlog

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation(TBI)
Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 4:11 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee Governor Bill Lee along with other state legislators announced that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) will be adding more forensic lab positions to help expand testing capacity amid the state’s rape kit backlog.

The new positions, which include scientists, technicians and administrative support, will be added to each TBI division throughout the state. Jackson will get eight new positions, the Nashville lab is to add 11 positions, and the Knoxville division will add six.

“This is an important step in a series of steps as we continue working together to eliminate the backlog of rape kits while enhancing our support for the TBI, and law enforcement communities throughout the state,” said Speaker Cameron Sexton. “Innocence or guilt delayed due to a backlog of DNA testing only compounds the pain and suffering for everyone; I appreciate Gov. Lee, Lt. Gov. McNally, the General Assembly, and the TBI for their commitment to addressing this issue quickly.”

“We have been searching for solutions to these challenges for several years now, and we are thankful for Governor Lee and leaders of both houses in continuing to hear our concerns and work with us toward permanent fixes,” said TBI Director David Rausch. “The commitment to fund additional positions will help us get a jump on the necessary training time to get new scientists prepared to perform their duties. This is a critical step in the process.

“In addition to this, we have collaborated with the Governor and leadership in both houses to prepare to do several things to immediately improve our turnaround times in our Forensic Biology units to include: providing overtime to our current scientists and technicians to work pending cases, expanding operations to include weekends, outsourcing as many eligible kits as we can to private laboratories, and contracting with retired TBI special agent/forensic scientists to assist in training new employees to free up current scientists who are pulled from casework to train new scientists.

“We’re confident these steps will bring us closer to more efficient turnaround times and put us in a position, within the next year, to be closer to our goal of eight to 12 weeks for all evidence. We also look forward to continuing the conversation with the Governor and the General Assembly to ensure the Bureau – and its workforce – meet the needs and expectations of the state and its residents.”

Recurring funding for these additional forensic lab positions will be included in the state’s upcoming Fiscal Year 2023-2024 budget. In the interim, the TBI will utilize existing funds in the FY 2022-2023 budget.

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