With the announcement in recent weeks that the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department forensics lab has received lab accreditation from the American Society of Crime Lab Directors — something that has been a goal of Sheriff Michael Bouchard for quite some time — we see good things on the horizon, including the county hopefully having its own DNA laboratory in the near future. But in addition, we also would like to see the county, much in the vein as the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office, explore the possibility of providing others counties or agencies with DNA lab services, presuming it gets up and running, in order to bring a modest amount of additional money into the county coffers.
The crime lab’s recent accreditation — which Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper characterized as the “gold standard” in the field — is nothing to sneeze at. The ASCLD lab seal of approval opens the doors to possible federal funding.
Bouchard estimated recently that between $2.5 million and $3 million — preferably in federal dollars, but if the county “can find funding elsewhere, we are ready to go,” he said — to get the forensic laboratory to a place where it can offer a DNA testing section.
So we say hats off to the county officials and employees who made the ASCLD accreditation possible. But we also say, if need be — and we hope it wouldn’t be needed — given the expected price tag of making the DNA section dream a reality, scale back slightly in other areas without affecting public safety to make it happen.
Having DNA testing capabilities on-site would be a boon for county law enforcement, particularly given that often DNA testing is critical in this day and age, especially in cases that have been gathering dust, unsolved for years. And certainly the benefits are critical to open cases and presenting solid, scientific evidence in a court.
The potential capability could also open the doors to an arrangement similar to one previously in place for the Medical Examiner’s Office, which charged other jurisdictions fees for autopsies. We know that wouldn’t bring in a barrel of cash, but it could theoretically off-set any county expenditure that may be needed for the plan, and perhaps even provide a few extra bucks to add to the budget in a time of fiscal uncertainty.