Former Attorney General of California, Bill Lockyer, looks back on his efforts to fight crime in the state and says the “most influential part of that process was eliminating our DNA backlog.” This massive accomplishment was achieved in 2001 and it was the result of years of collaboration, prioritization, and hard work.
Since 1986, California has required that persons convicted of one of nine specific felony sex and violent crimes must submit to blood and saliva samples being taken. These DNA profiles are stored in the DOJ Convicted Felon Databank. When crime scenes are being investigated, any DNA gathered is compared to the existing data bank profiles to see if they can get a match. If a match is found, it is called a “cold hit,” and passed on to local law enforcement so they can proceed with their case, explains Bill Lockyer.
“When I took office as the Attorney General, more than 100,000 blood samples from convicted felons were just sitting there in cold storage,” remembers Bill Lockyer. “It wasn’t being analyzed or compared to DNA evidence from crime scenes – it was shocking. When I made the discovery, I immediately made a commitment to changing the situation and prioritized the elimination of this backlog. These samples were taken to help solve crimes – they did no good sitting in a refrigerator.”
“It’s one of my greatest points of pride,” says Bill Lockyer, “that after two years of hard work and prioritization, the blood samples that were taken were able to be processed immediately.”
“The results were immediate,” continues Bill Lockyer. “It was so gratifying to learn that in that first year after we cleared the backlog, we made an average of one cold hit per week – that’s more than in the seven years previous combined!”
“Sometimes, when there’s a daunting task – like analyzing 100,000 blood samples, for instance – it’s human for the people involved to say ‘Oh that’s impossible, we’ll never catch up – we should focus on the work we can accomplish.’ But it’s all a matter of prioritization. It wasn’t a small task by any means – it took two years after all! But when you make something your number one priority and set those goals for the people who work with you…you’ll be amazed at the results,” says Bill Lockyer.
Bill Lockyer served in the legislature for 25 years – over half of that time in the senate. He also served as the California State Treasurer and Attorney General of California.