LAPD to Ration Fingerprint Analysis to Deal With Backlog
A shortage of fingerprint experts at the Los Angeles Police Department has caused a large backlog of unanalyzed fingerprints, resulting in long delays to thousands of active criminal investigations.
The LAPD’s beleaguered Latent Print Unit has failed to analyze fingerprints from about 2,200 burglaries, auto thefts and other property-related crimes, according to department figures. Detectives wait on average between two and three months to get print results back from the lab, LAPD officials said. In some cases, the delay can last more than a year and, in older cases in which the detectives have not pressed for analysis, prints are ignored altogether because the unit cannot keep up with the constant inflow of cases.
“In a perfect world, we’d get results back in a day or two,” said Michael Brausam, a detective in the LAPD’s Central Division. “The longer you leave these criminals out on the street, they’re likely going to be committing more crimes. And, if you do get a match on prints months later, it can be much harder to prove your case.”
And the prospect of the situation improving is bleak because of the city’s ongoing hiring freeze.
Since the freeze in 2009, the fingerprint unit has lost 27 of its 97 analysts. Over the next five years, 20% of the unit is expected to retire, officials said. Additionally, furloughs that are part of the city’s attempt to close a budget shortfall have exacerbated the problem, as have the neck and back injuries that analysts commonly suffer from long hours hunched over desks staring at prints through magnifying glasses.