Sedgwick County departments requesting bigger budgets

Sedgwick County commissioners on Wednesday heard from the head of the county's forensic laboratory who said he needs more money for DNA testing.

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – There are many cases involving DNA testing that are backlogged at Sedgwick County’s forensic laboratory.

The head of the Sedgwick County Regional Forensic Science Center told county commissioners there are more than 40 cases on hold because his lab doesn’t have enough money in its budget to cover the increased costs of analyzing the DNA in sexual assault kits.

The lab’s director, Dr. Timothy Rhorig, said those cases are just the ones that haven’t been touched for the past 60 days.  He said compared to last year, that’s a three-fold increase in untested criminal cases where DNA is involved.

In March 2016, officials with the lab presented three budget packages all having to do with DNA testing.  The total amount the lab is requesting is $126,000.  That money would go to cover the increased cost of analyzing the DNA in sexual assault kits.  It also would pay for an extra employee to analyze the DNA cases faster and more efficiently with a goal of reducing the DNA testing backlog.

“Now, DNA is required, demanded in almost every case.” said Rhorig.  “We are still turning away some DNA cases just because I don’t have the staff or the supplies to test the samples.”

Two other departments also are requesting budget increases for next year.

The District Attorney’s Office is asking for a $240,000 increase in its budget to cover the increased workload that D.A. Marc Bennett says will come with the Wichita Police Department implementing new body cameras.

And, the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office is requesting an additional $3 million to pay for pay raises for its deputies.

Sheriff Jeff Easter says he’s losing people to the Wichita Police Department because WPD pays its officers more than he can pay his deputies.

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