Mayor Parker wants independent crime lab

February 15, 2012 3:36:06 PM PST
On Wednesday, the mayor announced a new plan for the city to create it's own independent crime lab. It's a new direction for the city, which had previously been negotiating with the county on a joint crime lab.

Mayor Annise Parker wants fair impartiality that's independent for the city's crime lab. And though it's been trying to work with the county, and it's a possibility, the city is also prepared to go at it alone.

The city of Houston's crime lab has always been part of the Houston Police Department, and in recent years, it's also been a hotbed of controversy.

On Wednesday, Mayor Parker said it's finally time to make the crime lab completely independent agency.

"I clearly prefer to have our forensic sciences not under the influence of police, prosecution or politics, and I'd like to see that independent position," Parker said.

The mayor wants the independent crime lab to be governed by a separate board. But getting it off the ground will require city money and cooperation from council members.

"We need to restore the public trust, we need to ensure that investigations are done effectively and properly," Councilman Ed Gonzalez said.

The city has definite plans to move the crime lab away from within the police department -- where it is -- but whether it can jointly work with Harris County remains uncertain.

"No, I do not see, because it doesn't make any sense," Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack said.

Radack wants a regional crime lab as well, but he wants it to be run by the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office, not a board. It could be the one road block that will prevent the county and the city to join together.

"You don't operate a crime lab with a board. We have a great ME in Harris County, that's who would manage and who is managing the county's facility now; it works extremely well," Radack said.

Parker emphasizes this is just the beginning of her plan and there are many moving pieces. City council is expected to vote on funding next month. If approved, the crime lab could be in operation as early as 2016.

As for when the city and county might reach an agreement, well that answer could be years down the road.