Reporting Reg Chapman
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The St. Paul Police Department showed off its new and improved crime lab Thursday.
Last year, the lab came under fire and suspended drug testing after defense attorneys challenged the lab’s work in several Dakota County drug cases.
Issues raised about the quality of work done at St. Paul Police Department’s crime lab made them re-evaluate how they handled crime scene evidence.
“We did an extensive, extensive review of what we had and where we had some challenges what we were doing right and what we were doing wrong and where we needed to make some changes,” said Mayor Chris Coleman.
Mayor Coleman and St. Paul’s City Council spent $1 million on new technology, new equipment and new personnel. It’s the city’s effort to get the lab accredited.
“I want our public and our citizens to be confident in the capabilities that we have in our forensic services unit,” Police Chief Tom Smith said.
Both sworn and civilian workers are going through the certification process.
The focus now: the best and latest technology, best practices and procedures.
“We’ve looked at other laboratories along with our consultants that we have still here today. We’ve looked at best practices. That’s how we’ve developed our standard operating procedures,” Smith said.
The lab will concentrate only on the accreditation for fingerprint comparison. It no longer does drug testing.
“At some point, we will look at that and when it is in the best interest of the city and the police department, we will go forward with that at this time,” Deputy Chief Kathy Wuorinen said.
Dakota and Washington Counties stopped using St. Paul’s lab for drug testing and now use the BCA for all their forensic work.
There are four publicly-funded accredited crime labs in the state: the BCA labs in St. Paul and Bemidji, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office lab and the Minneapolis Police Department crime lab.
St. Paul Police hope to have its lab accredited in about 18 months.