Basically it all boils down to VISIBLE POLICING! They implemented it in NYC to great effect; the Western Cape have been pushing for it over the last few years to good effect and it was used during the World Cup to demonstrate how effective it really is. We should be pushing for visible policing as one of our basic rights in this country and must be careful not to fall down the slippery slope of complacency and acceptance the further we move away from the “Great World Cup”.
My last blog published a tender from the State Forensic Lab inviting private labs to bid for business to assist the state labs with processing capacity. I received a number of queries subsequent to this blog entry around why it is important and what it means for SA. The below questions and answers hopefully cover most of the issues raised, but please feel free to email me should any other issues surrounding this bid remain unclear:
Why is this bid important and what does it mean for The DNA Project and SA?
A dynamic common to most countries that implement forensic DNA databases is the necessary development of a private sector market. This is a natural result of the passage of database legislation. Few country laboratory infrastructures were designed with forensic DNA databasing in mind. And the passage of legislation results in an immediate and large volume of offender testing that needs to be accomplished in order for the database to be effective. Also, offender sample testing is conducive to automation and doesn’t require the same level of “bench” expertise that law enforcement crime scene specialists should be doing. Ultimately, private sector automation is a more cost effective way to approach such testing. The development of a private sector market contributes to cost efficiencies. In the United States, when databasing first began, offender samples were being analyzed at approximately $80 per sample. Because of competition, samples are now analyzed at less than $30 per offender sample. The DNAP has engaged widely with private forensic labs throughout South Africa who are willing to assist the state labs with their throughput capacity. We welcome this move by the state forensic labs to explore future private-public partnerships in order to facilitate the backlog and implementation plan proposed by the police to the portfolio committee to ensure the ultimate success of the legislation.
There are three parts to the tender (apart from the general laboratory requirements): Training of SAPS personnel to collect non-invasive samples; DNA extraction/non extraction and the actual profile laboratory service. The difficulty for anyone submitting a bid will be the lack of detail and commitment from SAPS FSL.
Service providers are advised to submit their questions and concerns to the office of SAPS SCM (Ms Jacobeth Majola) where the bid documents were collected.
In order to make any commitment, a laboratory service provider would need guaranteed sample numbers before making the substantial instrument and infrastructure investments. A one year contract is simply too short to recoup the investment. By the time the tender is awarded some months would have been lost from the twelve month period. Next will be the time required to train SAPS personnel to collect samples before a single sample can be run. However, if the database is to include, for example, all current and future prison inmates, SAPS and military personnel this could be a starting point to submit potential sample numbers for profiling. This would assist potential service providers drawing up a business plan and possibly submitting a meaningful bid.
(1) The training of police officials to take non-intimate samples is not dependent on the Forensic Amendment Bill. The new National Heath Bill regulations permit SAPS officials to take non-intimate samples— hence SAPS require that officials at all Police Stations are trained to take the non-intimate samples when the contract is awarded. Thus officials will not be required to take suspects to a medical practitioner anymore to take the non-intimate sample- provided they are trained in terms of the National Health Regulations. (2) It may be unlikely that the same service provider who will perform the DNA testing services will also be performing the training of officials to take the non-intimate samples. * the lab performing the testing will not be required to train officials to take samples * until the legislation is finalised, there will not be large scale DNA testing services required by the private laboratories- pilot projects will be run * the bids do however provide SAPS an opportunity through a formal process to report to parliament on the interested capacity of service providers . (3) Service providers must bid on their existing DNA testing capacity (indicate what is the absolute minimum quantities that will justify them to provide the service) and also indicate what expansion they are capable/willing to do and lead time to provide the increased sample typing service. (4) The fact of one year for a contract being too short has been noted by and communicated to the appropriate SAPS principals.
The Portfolio Committee will be looking closely at the private sector capacity on their return from their overseas tour of International Forensic Labs, and as such it is vitally important that the private sector come on board to assist the state labs with processing capacity – the more profiles that are processed and entered onto the database, the greater the chance of a match being made.
Finally, here is an opportunity for the good guys to make money out of crime! Don’t let this opportunity pass you by.