Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mayor wants to build new crime lab

Harris County already has a crime lab. It's called the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences. It was created out of the old medical examiner's office. They have a brand new building and a staff of anthropologists, forensic pathologists and lab techs in various forensic fields.

The City of Houston, on the other hand, only has the long discredited HPD Crime Lab.

But now Annise Parker wants a crime lab of her own. She wants to create an "independent" crime lab headed up by an assortment of political appointees to oversee the testing of evidence in criminal investigations. She'll need a building and a staff as well as a board of appointees fitting every possible demographic.

Mayor Parker wants someone from an Innocence Project-type group on the board. Council member Larry Green wants someone from the NAACP or LULAC. And, so we don't forget the wingnut crowd, Michael Sullivan wants representatives from law enforcement, so-called victims' rights groups and Parents of Murdered Children.

Excuse me, Mr. Sullivan, the crime lab's only customer will be law enforcement. They will provide the expert witnesses at trial. They will bend the truth any way they can to convince that jury that the defendant is guilty as charged.

Any crime lab should be independent of law enforcement. The testing of evidence should be an exercise in science, not politics. The only agenda the board running the lab should have is how to improve the science.

With the IFS already up and running, there is no need for the city to build its own crime lab. The city should contract with the IFS to handle any evidence testing for HPD. Running two crime labs would be a tremendous waste of resources. There are better uses for city money than duplicating the services the county already provides.

So, Mayor Parker, just let it go.

H/T Grits for Breakfast

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