Houston Mayor Annise Parker made the proposal today to create an independent crime lab to serve HPD and perhaps other crime-fighting entities. The slide show is an interesting one which gives us a clearer picture.
As outlined by Parker, City Attorney David Feldmanand chief development officer Andy Icken, the seven members of the board could not be removed by City Council except for intentional misconduct. They envision the board would include a representative from the Innocence Project, the legal team nationally renowned for its work in exonerating the wrongfully convicted. Feldman said Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheckcalled him and told him he thought it was an excellent idea.
“I clearly prefer to have our forensics sciences not under the influence of police, prosecution or politics,” Parker said.
Sounds reasonable to me, but not to my Council Member, who seems to have a lock ’em up no matter what attitude about this. Because lives are in the balance in some of the worst crimes, some balance on the independent board is indeed called for, so, I’ll just chalk it up to typical right-wing electioneering on the part of Mike Sullivan. So much for keeping politics out of this, right?
Anyway, the cost of something like this obviously is on our minds. The current cost of $23 million to run this kind of operation sounds about right, but the start-up costs would definitely be a concern. Ensuring there is no duplication of services offered by the County’s facility is one solution; however, if the County isn’t willing to step up and help create this kind of facility (the county is mandated by law to report to the Commissioner’s Court, apparently) then that’s a problem, too.
There’s a solution somewhere–a practical one, rather than a political one. Unfortunately, when different political ideologies are in charge of things, these clashes will happen. In this case, I prefer the Mayor’s plan.
Update: Thanks to Kuff for catching this nugget of hope:
County Judge Ed Emmett said that although the city and county are on separate tracks right now, Parker’s proposal ultimately could make it easier for the two governments to come together.
“By having the LGC, it opens up more options for how the city can approach forensic science, including partnering with the Institute of Forensic Sciences,” Emmett said.