TPD Forensic Lab Looks For Ways To Do More With Less

Wednesday, January 10th 2018, 10:35 pm
By: Amy Avery

Many forensic labs across the country are dealing with a serious backlog on cases waiting to be tested, but that's not the case at the lab at the Tulsa Police Department.

The number of backlogged cases is down significantly compared to years past, but thanks to some new training, they are already looking for ways to get that number closer to zero.

“There’s really no room for error and we really can't afford to be wrong on our results,” said TPD Laboratory Director Tara Brians. 

The Tulsa Police Department's Forensic Lab performs tests for hundreds of cases each year, but it's easy for things to get backed up. 

“Those cases are waiting and waiting and that’s where we would love to get to that request and almost start working on it immediately,” said Brians.  

A backlogged case is classified as something that was requested more than 30 days ago and the forensic lab is working really hard to catch up on those cases. 

“I just looked and we had, I believe, almost 800 cases at the end of 2016 and we have now less than 500,” said Brians. 

Brians said they would love to get closer to zero, so they are looking for ways to work smarter in the lab. 

“Budgets are not really being increased we are not really getting a lot of money so we have to figure out ways to increase efficiency and to do more with less,” she said.  

They recently started implementing a training called Lean Six Sigma, which will help improve performance by removing extra steps from the process while still maintaining accuracy. 

“The wait times between the initial step and the process can be minimized or shortened to decrease the overall turnaround time,” said Operations Manager Jon Wilson. 

City Council tabled their discussion at the meeting Wednesday regarding funds for the forensic lab. 

The federal grant money is slated to help pay overtime to work on backlogged cases, add software to analyze new drugs, and help with accreditation fees.