- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2008

ANNAPOLIS | O’Malley administration officials said Monday that they cannot locate required DNA samples for more than 2,000 convicted felons, some of whom are out on parole.

“The attached spreadsheet contains the names of 2,010 offenders who have been identified… as being required to submit a DNA sample but for whom there is no sample in the [Maryland State Police] database,” said Philip Pie, deputy director of the state’s division of Parole and Probation, in a Sept. 22 e-mail obtained by The Washington Times.

In the internal e-mail to parole and probation agents, Mr. Pie said some of the samples may have already been taken and not properly filed, offenders must be tracked down and have their samples taken and that in some cases offenders may not have needed to submit a sample.

“This is a high priority project that must be completed this week,” he also wrote. “Please give this project your immediate attention.”

Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, has made improved and expanded DNA collection a hallmark of his administration - including clearing a backlog of 24,000 uncollected DNA samples and signing into law this year a broad expansion of the state’s DNA collection guidelines to include people arrested for violent offenses.

Maryland’s law allowing law enforcement agencies to collect DNA samples from convicted felons passed in 1995. It was challenged and upheld in a 2004 Court of Appeals ruling.

Critics of expanding DNA collection say the state is unprepared to properly collect more samples and does not have proper safeguards in place to ensure civil rights are protected.

“If you don’t know what you’re doing already, why would you add to the problem?” state Sen. Delores G. Kelley, Baltimore County Democrat, asked earlier this month.

She also pointed out that new standards for DNA collection, approved in 2007, have yet to be implemented by the O’Malley administration.

Rick Binetti, a state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services spokesman, acknowledged the problem Monday and characterized the e-mail as “pretty routine” and a matter of “housekeeping.”

“We’re doing our due diligence, as it were, to make sure the information we have is correct,” he said.

The parole and probation agents are blaming Mr. O’Malley, saying they have been overworked since he made a priority last year of clearing the backlog in processing DNA samples.

“It feels like there’s a lot more pressure than ever before,” said Rai Douglas, president of AFSCME Local 3661, which represents parole and probation agents in Maryland. “There’s a sense there’s a lot more micromanaging going on.”

Mr. O’Malley instituted a program last year called StateStat, which requires high-ranking state officials to hold employees more accountable. Mr. Douglas said the change has resulted in parole officers being over scrutinized about cases.

In addition, state Division of Parole and Probation employees have been asked to help the state police in cleaning up the DNA database, he said.

Mr. Douglas said his members started receiving e-mails regularly requesting they document DNA collections, violent criminals released on parole and warrants that had been served shortly after Mr. O’Malley took office.

“We all know how very important DNA collection is,” Mr. Douglas said. “We have cases to supervise. We have a lot of work to constantly be torn away from our work to do this.”

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