Emily Anderson
Grand Junction, CO Colorado

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May 22, 2008
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King's DNA law leads to capacity worries for GJ police evidence storage

GRAND JUNCTION " Grand Junction police department evidence technicians aren't sure they have the space to accommodate a new DNA retention law co-sponsored by Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction.

The police have four refrigerators, 3,000 square feet of on-site evidence storage space and 7,000 square feet of rented storage space " most of it packed. Since Gov. Bill Ritter signed King's House Bill 1397 May 14, police evidence technicians across the state will have to store DNA evidence related to a class one felony, including homicide, or a sex offense with an indeterminate sentence as long as the defendant lives.

Before the law, local law enforcement leaders and prosecutors decided how long evidence remained in storage. Most evidence is stored in the GJPD basement for about 18 months during the course of a trial, said GJPD evidence technician Lane Jochums.

"Things are going to change here rapidly," Jochums said of the law.

King said the law will streamline the evidence storage process, and may actually decrease the amount of evidence stored by the police department. A provision in the law allows employees to remove DNA-containing portions of a bulky item for storage. Grand Junction evidence technicians have stored items as large as entire interiors of vehicles, carpets and canoes.

"I think this will allow evidence technicians to clear out their evidence lockers in a more timely and effective way than before," King said. "My belief is that once we get going on this process, that we will have created a very functional streamlined system for dealing with bulk evidence and DNA evidence."

Gardner said Monday he had not read King's bill, but would appreciate King's support getting the police department more evidence storage space in a new public safety facility. The $98 million facility proposal includes a police and fire headquarters, parking garage, an annex building and four fire stations (one by the other amenities, three spread around the city).

"He should definitely support this proposal," Gardner said.

King said he hasn't had enough time to research the facility since getting out of legislative session two weeks ago. He hasn't decided whether to support the proposal yet, but said something needs to be done about the crowded police headquarters.

"There's a need there. I support the idea that we need to solve that problem, it's just how and at what cost," he said.

King added, "$98 million is a lot of money."

Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said he gets "a little tired of" the state ordering law enforcement to do things without offering to carry the tab, something this law does. Still, he supports the law. But Hautzinger said storing DNA evidence longer is something the local police department can't handle.

"We simply do not have the capacity to do it," Hautzinger said.

Reach Emily Anderson at eanderson@gjfreepress.com.

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