Friday, September 15, 2006

CSI: Los Angeles?

The science of catching criminals is interesting stuff. It doesn't take a forensic detective to see that. Just look at the procedural dramas that fill the network programming schedule.

The science (and politics) of CSI type work in real life is also kind of dramatic.

I covered a press conference yesterday that was held at Cal State Los Angeles. It was part of a conference about DNA analysis as a crime fighting tool.

The top guys from LAPD and the Sheriff's Department were both there, so I got the impression this was a pretty big deal for them.

DNA testing has become such an important part of the criminal justice system, the current testing facilities are two years behind and get thousands of new DNA samples to test each month.

A huge new regional lab is being built on the Cal State Los Angeles campus to help with the processing and analysis of DNA. Most of the tests are being done on DNA material from people who are already in the system.

You know, that's how they caught the guy who killed Samantha Runnion. They tested for DNA and were able to track him down and convict him.

All from his DNA.

Samantha's mother, Erin Runnion, was there yesterday. She's one of the biggest supporter of DNA analysis. It was interesting to interview her. We were more respectful and considerate than it might seem in this shot.

She lost a daughter and it still pains her to talk about it, but she's determined to get the word out about the city and county needing additional funds to support the scientific aspects of fighting crime.

Here's something interesting that wasn't part of the story anyone would have reported. It was just a brief moment during the interview, but it was positively chilling to find out that she won't say the name of her daughter's killer.

It came up during the interview. I think it caught everyone off-guard, but was just awkward for a moment. She didn't have to explain herself and we quickly moved on to other subjects relating to the conference. You could tell from her voice and you could see from her expression, the pain is still there.

By speaking out for the benefits of scientific analysis in police work, she's doing something she feels is important. She's talking to the media to get the word out, even though the the pain of losing her child is still difficult for her.

That's not surprising in the least.

The surprising part of the press conference was a statement by LAPD Chief Bratton. This is not a direct quote, but right now as part of ongoing investigations, the LAPD is tracking five suspected serial killers operating around Los Angeles.

(pardon me for a moment)

Holy shit!

Sure, Bratton made what I'd call an inflammatory statement. I don't doubt that it's true.

He explained how the backlog of DNA testing is possibly hiding information that could help catch these killers. It's easy to understand why law enforcement wants more money to put towards DNA testing.

It's an important part of solving crime.

I knew that before yesterday, but I think they made their point.

After the press conference I had to get shots of the building being constructed. I kind of felt like yelling at the construction workers.

Hey! Come on, man, hurry up.


Break_n_free said...

I know someone who works for the probation department...If you are own probation for what ever reason they are ordering DNA testing. If you steal a pack of gum they want to know how to find you in the near or distant future.

beFrank said...

break_n_free - I thought it was mandatory only in violent crime cases. If you're a suspect in a murder investigation or convicted of rape or murder (or if you're in jail for any reason). Hmmm. . .