LIHUE — The Kauai Police Department may be getting new a DNA analysis system.
Acting Police Chief Michael Contrades last month sent a letter requesting the County Council approve the purchase of a Rapid DNA analysis system at a cost of $110,000, to be paid for using money left over in the department’s salary budget.
The Rapid DNA system allows police to generate a DNA profile from a person’s cheek swab in under two hours using a fully-automated process and then compare that profile with the millions of others in the FBI database.
The KPD first bought a DNA screening system in late-2015, which, according to Contrades, expanded the department’s ability to collect and analyze DNA evidence by orders of magnitude.
“With the ParaDNA system, our unit has expanded the use of DNA evidence from only around ten cases per year, to being utilized on over four hundred samples in the last two and a half years,” Contrades wrote in his request to the council.
Contrades said the DNA technology purchased three years ago has proven to be worth the $50,000 it cost to buy the system, having saved the department well over a hundred thousand dollars in laboratory fees alone.
But the manufacturer of the 2015 DNA screening platform is expected to discontinue its support of the product by the Spring of 2020, due to what Contrades described as “Brexit-related political changes in Europe,” leaving the department with about a year to find a replacement.
Contrades said the department considered buying a Rapid DNA system back in 2015, but decided the half-million-dollar price tag was too much to spend, considering the availability of cheaper alternatives.
Today that price has dropped to around $100,000, and Contrades believes it is worth the expense. He said the department can expect to continue saving money on a regular basis by maintaining the ability to process DNA samples and avoiding costs associated with sending DNA samples to outside labs for analysis.
And he pointed to other potential benefits of Rapid DNA analysis.
“By extensively utilizing DNA analysis in our cases, we are minimizing the chances of wrongfully convicting an innocent person,” Contrades wrote. “With peoples’ freedom on the line we have an enormous moral duty to get these cases right.”