The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office is considering expanding the county’s crime lab to include DNA testing, avoiding state DNA test result delays that at times stretch six to nine months.
“The State Police do a great job; they have fantastic crime labs,” Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Major Robert Smith said this morning, speaking on behalf of Sheriff Michael Bouchard. “But we know in the past several years, the workload they’re asked to handle has been ever-increasing. And with the closure of the Detroit lab, that has only exasperated or compounded that workload and situation.”
Bouchard is expected to talk about the proposed expansion at a press conference today announcing accreditation of the crime lab. The Oakland County facility will be the first lab in the state to win accreditation from the American Society of Crime Lab Directors.
Oakland County’s crime lab currently employs 17 people, operating with a $1.8 million budget, said lab director Kent Gardner.
Gardner, retired director of the Michigan State Police’s Bridgeport Forensic Science Laboratory, where he worked for 22 years, said the move could alleviate some of the time lag in results from the state’s three labs in Bridgeport, Lansing and Grand Rapids.
“Typically, like for homicides — they have a high priority — usually in a week or two they get the results back,” he said today. “With others, it could take six to nine months.”
Gardner said the cost to begin DNA testing varies depending on whether current facilities are renovated or the county builds something new.
On the low end, it could cost about $200,000 to add a minimum of two or three people, $300,000 to $350,000 for equipment and about $50,000 a year for supplies, he said. The high end could stretch to more than $3 million.
Gardner said the plan could take nearly a year to implement.
In 2010, the lab processed just under 30,000 toxicology and drug evidence cases, along with 280 firearms, 820 fingerprints and 151 crime scenes, he said.
The city of Detroit closed its scandal-plagued crime lab near Brush Park in 2008, adding to the workload of the state’s labs.
The Free Press reported in May that items were left behind in the old, unsecured crime lab, including live ammunition, and paperwork containing Social Security numbers. Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr., the assistant chief when the lab closed, took responsibility for not ensuring the building was emptied. The Michigan State Police is conducting an independent probe into the situation.
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