In Philly's own forensics lab, it's not perfect, but a lot better

Posted: February 15, 2012

THE PHILADELPHIA Police Department's Forensic Sciences Bureau has grappled with its own backlog for years, but with renewed efforts and a new leader, the bureau was able to reduce it by a third within the past year.

Michael Garvey Jr., who has worked for the FBI and CIA, is the first civilian head of the bureau and the only one to also be given the title of deputy managing director. Before him, high-level police officials were in charge.

"It's a trend throughout forensic science to bring in folks that not only deal with running the administration portion of a forensic science entity, but can also understand and deal with all of the technical issues," he said.

Along with outsourcing work to private labs, Garvey started looking at how to beef up productivity in-house. He got the permission of Mayor Nutter and Commissioner Charles Ramsey to bring on five new hires and two new instruments to conduct DNA typing.

Garvey also made a deal with Drexel University that he would take on three or four interns every year if he could send one of his employees into their graduate program, part time and for free.

Although the backlog at the Philly lab is still significant - about 2,074 cases - it's not as frustrating for cops as the State Police backlog since the only department that uses the Philly lab also runs it.

"At least here, we have our own crime lab and we get to set our own priorities," Garvey said.

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