Wednesday, July 25, 2001
Sheriff’s Department Says Crime Lab Consolidation Not Option
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A single Los Angeles city-county crime lab is not an option despite a vote by the Board of Supervisors to get the process rolling, a Sheriff’s Department spokesman said yesterday.
“A consolidated crime lab isn’t even an option on the table,” Sheriff’s Crime Lab Director Barry Fisher said, adding that the Sheriff’s Department and the LAPD have been discussing the collaboration for the past five years.
All that will come out of consolidation talk may be two independent forensic crime labs side-by-side in a single new building, rather than the single lab officials originally contemplated, Fisher said.
Still, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors pushed ahead and voted unanimously yesterday to sign onto an agreement with the city of Los Angeles to take the first official joint step in consolidating the county’s and the city’s forensic crime labs.
The vote came after representatives from both the Sheriff’s Department and the LAPD admitted to a surprised board that under the current plan for complete consolidation would not take place.
A joint agreement creates a panel to oversee the development of a proposed consolidated crime lab, Regional Forensic Crime Laboratory, to be used by the Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles Police Department. The panel is made up of the sheriff, the chief of police, the president of Cal State Los Angeles, the county’s chief administrative officer, and a fifth yet to be identified party.
Fisher said the vote will allow a building to be built and shared by the two law enforcement agencies, but little else.
“The city of Los Angeles has all along maintained the position that they want their own lab,” Fisher said. “They have made that point crystal clear.”
Cpt. Lee Davenport of the Sheriff’s Department told the board there is currently no plan for consolidation. The LAPD has no desire to give up its autonomy over their crime lab.
State funding in the amount of $96 million was approved after a statewide crime lab proposition failed despite being approved in Los Angeles County with the stipulation that the single crime lab would be used by the Sheriff’s Department, LAPD, and be made available for forensic training at California State University, Los Angeles, where the facility is to be located.
Numerous grand jury reports over the past few years have recommended consolidation of the two crime labs, noting that a single coroner and district attorney serves both the city and the county.
Supervisor Michael Antonovich said the recommendation of the grand jury was not to house two crime labs in one building, but to consolidate into one.
“My concern is that we’re not consolidating,” Antonovich said. “We’re just creating a new facility with two wings or two floors to operate in, creating the same problems that you’ve had in the past, except you have a new facility to do it in.”
Fisher said that the LAPD and the Sheriff’s Department have discussed building a single firing range, a library, and an area to examine vehicles involved in hit and run incidents which would be shared by both agencies.
Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke agreed that consolidation was the goal of the Board, but added that signing onto the panel is moving towards that goal.
“This is a big step to start bringing some of the functions together,” Burke said. “It will take a while to figure out how to coordinate the uses of a single facility.”
The joint agreement will be up for approval by the City Council in the next few weeks.
The LAPD did not return calls for comment.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company