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'It would have a detrimental effect all over Georgia': Bibb sheriff talks proposed GBI crime lab budget cuts

Governor Kemp's budget proposal includes cutting around $1.6 million from the GBI forensics department over two years.

MACON, Ga. — Governor Brian Kemp is ordering all state agencies to make spending cuts to try to balance the budget. One of those agencies is the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, whose crime lab could be cut by $1.6 million. 

Those cuts could impact local law enforcement. 

"Sometimes, we can get a result quicker through the federal system than we can through the state system," says Bibb County Sheriff David Davis. 

Even with hundreds of employees, the GBI has racked up a backlog of around 46,000 cases that need to be examined. 

"When we're looking for DNA typing, it takes anywhere from one month to three years," says Davis. 

Davis fears that budget cuts to the GBI forensics funds could be "detrimental." 

He says at the Bibb County crime lab, techs can match fingerprints and scan shell casings, but they send a lot of other evidence to the GBI.

"Blood evidence, other bodily fluid evidence—that sort of thing—it does take longer than it used to, and I'm fearful that any cuts in funding or cuts in personnel is going to make that time even longer," says Davis. 

The governor's current proposal includes cutting 12 vacant scientist positions and 4 lab techs over the next two years, as well as freezing two more scientist roles.

The cuts which would eliminate roughly $1.6 million from the GBI's forensic services.

Unlike Sheriff Davis, Macon-Bibb Coroner Leon Jones says he doesn't think Kemp's proposed plan would make much of a difference.

"I don't think budget cuts are going to hurt us. They already do the best they can with what they got," says Jones.

The jobs being eliminated are already vacant, and there's already a long list of backlogged cases.

"They do a good job out there, they're very thorough, they're very professional," says Jones. 

GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles says part of their solution to the proposed cuts and the growing backlog will be to outsource lab work to outside companies (full statement below).

"The GBI crime lab plans to streamline our processes as we continue to address the crime lab backlog. Some of the avenues that our agency will be looking at is outsourcing chemistry & forensic biology services. Additionally, we will be looking at examining operations in chemistry and forensic biology to include but not limited to process mapping, adjustments in the scientist training program, and creating service teams based on evidence categories."

Georgia's constitution requires the general assembly to pass a balanced budget yearly. This year's session ends in March. 

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