A Detroit consulting firm has released their recommendations for the Hamilton County crime lab. And policy makers are not pleased with the price tag on the potential solutions. The report is calling for a new lab, at the cost of $56 million. Cheaper recommended solutions include a $35 million addition or at least a $16.5 million renovation, something that many say simply won’t happen.
The consulting firm, Crime Lab Design, was called in following an investigative report from the Cincinnati Enquirer last year. The Enquirer’s investigation revealed serious shortcomings at the lab, bringing statewide attention to the crowded and outdated facilities.
The Enquirer was contacted by former Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Kode Sammarco last year about the deteriorating conditions. They conducted their own investigation, leading to a series of stories. It was then that the county contacted Crime Lab Design for a consultation.
The report warns that overcrowded conditions at the lab are “jeopardizing the integrity” of evidence in criminal cases and putting the lab in jeopardy of losing accreditation. The lab is so crowded that workers are doing their jobs in hallways and evidence is being stored under questionable conditions.
According to the report, the county also needs to hire at least 13 new lab workers and investigators. Currently, some cases are never investigated due to under-staffing. While the company wouldn’t elaborate on which cases these were, local law enforcement says that no cases have been compromised.
The report comes as Hamilton County citizens are preparing to vote for a new coroner, and head of the crime lab. It has become a talking point for candidates who seem committed to not seeing a new lab. They instead are pushing for “fiscal responsibility,” likely at least in part, because they know that’s what voters want to hear.
One potential compromise would be a multi-county lab, which would allow Hamilton County taxpayers to share the burden of a new lab with neighboring citizens. The idea has backing from the county board’s lone Democrat and Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig.
Most lawmakers, coroner candidates, and city officials agree that the money for a new lab or even for a renovation of the old one simply isn’t there.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said, “I think the lab itself has done a tremendous job considering the environment. The reality is they are going to have to maintain that level of quality until the economy turns around.”
The integrity of evidence is crucial in the fair administration of justice. It seems unless something is done to ensure the lab workers have the resources needed to handle the evidence in a proper manner, the cases that come through the lab are in jeopardy.
If you are charged with a crime in Hamilton County, your evidence could be processed and held by this lab. If you have questions about how the conditions could affect your case, you are not alone. Contact our offices today to discuss the details of your case and how we might be able to help.