After much debate the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners decided Wednesday to postpone any possible changes to the Hennepin County Crime Lab until Dec. 12.
Two Hennepin County commissioners want to change who manages the crime lab, currently under the purview of the Sheriff's Office. The two commissioners, Linda Higgins and Marion Greene, want to move the management to the county administration.
The proposal has drawn concern from Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek and officials with Robbinsdale and Crystal, who spoke out against the change. They are concerned it could have a negative impact on how crimes are processed.
Last year, more than 2,400 crimes were processed at the Hennepin County Crime Lab, located at 531 Park Ave, near U.S. Bank Stadium. Greene believes changing the oversight to the county administration provides better oversight.
"It's best practice to have a separated crime lab, a crime lab that doesn't report to law enforcement and also doesn't report to prosecution. the idea is to just have that independence," says Greene.
But stanek says it's a bad policy that could even hurt investigations.
"This would be akin to slowing down the time in terms of response times," says Stanek. "The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office also processes property crime DNA. There isn't another crime lab in the state that does that."
Since the county's crime lab is one of the few in the state that does DNA testing in house for property crimes, Stanek feels changing that to an outside vendor would slow the processing times. The Brookyn Park Police Department is one of the crime lab's biggest users.
"I'd assume at some point they're going to come ask us or at least talk to us about how this would impact us," said Brooklyn Park Deputy Police Chief Mark Bruley.
Commissioner Greene says one of the reasons for the proposed change is to save taxpayer money.
"Especially for Minneapolis taxpayers who are currently paying for two crime labs, through their Hennepin County property taxes, they're paying for a county crime lab. And through their city property taxes they're paying for a city crime lab," says Greene. "Suburban taxpayers will also benefit relatively immediately because both crime labs separately contract through the state, and with other outside vendors, for certain tests."
But Stanek disagrees and says the move might be political in nature. The crime lab is next to the vikings stadium and thinks this might have something to do with the proposal.
"Since the Vikings stadium was built, they have wanted this land, for all I know, this could be just a ruse on behalf of the commissioner to provide that land to the Minnesota Vikings at taxpayer expense," says Stanek
Commissioner Greene says that's not the case and she looks forward to hearing from officials in the suburbs.
"I want to reassure Brooklyn Park and other suburbs that we don't see any service changes, a change in management as you will," says Greene.
Sonya Goins, firstname.lastname@example.org