ST. PAUL -- Some police agencies aren't complying with a state law requiring them to provide blood samples of people convicted of certain types of felonies for the state's DNA database, state crime investigators said.
Frank Dolejsi, director of the state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension laboratory, cited "anecdotal evidence from several sources" to support concerns he raised with a joint House and Senate crime committee Friday.
Some sheriffs have complained to the agency that the cost of taking the samples is too expensive because they have to hire health care workers to draw the blood, he said. A few have told BCA assistants they won't comply, Dolejsi said.
He would not, however, directly name any police agencies that aren't complying and Jim Trudeau, director of the Minnesota Sheriff's Association, said he's never heard the complaint before.
"It would really surprise me if the sheriffs don't go by the law. We're pretty good at that," Trudeau said.
Since 1990, the state has required the collection of DNA samples of all adults and juveniles convicted of sex crimes. In 2000, the effort was expanded to include those convicted of violent crimes.
Under the law, courts are required to order that blood samples be drawn from the felons and sent to the BCA for testing. The agency now tests about 4,000 samples a year.
Public Safety Commissioner Charlie Weaver said courts shoulder some of the blame. Police can't draw blood without the orders, he said.
He said the department, which oversees the BCA, hasn't raised the issue before because there is already a backlog on testing samples.
"If everyone did comply," Weaver said, "we wouldn't have the capability to do the test in a reasonable time."
Still, Weaver said he's concerned about the issue and expects to appeal to the state's sheriffs and police.
Rep. Rich Stanek, a Minneapolis police officer and Maple Grove Republican, said tracking those who don't comply should be easy enough. "If a county reports 40 charges in these categories of felonies, but only sends 31 samples, we know we've got a problem."
Dolejsi said the agency hasn't made such comparisons, but probably could.
Legislators are considering expanding the database to include those convicted of drug crimes, a move Dolejsi said would increase the BCA lab's workload fivefold and likely worsen noncompliance.
The law has no penalties for those who don't comply. Stanek said it shouldn't need one.
"It's irresponsible on their behalf," he said. "When we put laws on the books, we expect local governments to comply."
All states and the FBI maintain DNA databases, though the categories of crimes tracked vary. They act like fingerprint files and help police search nationwide for people who leave traces of themselves at crime scenes.
A new BCA report says the state has solved dozens of cold cases based solely on the database, which has more than 12,600 samples so far.
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