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Proposed Crime Lab Management Changes Causing A Stir In Hennepin County

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A battle is brewing over a proposed amendment that could change the way crime labs operate in Hennepin County.

Right now, the Crime Labs of Minneapolis and Hennepin County operate separately. The push is to combine the resources of the two labs and transfer power from law enforcement to a private organization, but some law enforcement officials see this proposal as jeopardizing public safety.

For the past 51 years, the Hennepin County Sheriff has run an internationally accredited crime lab that services 44 cities in the county. It's something Hennepin County Commissioner Marion Green would like to see changed.

"It makes sense to have a crime lab that's separated from law enforcement and from prosecution," she said. "That just has to do with the faith that we put in independent organizations, and that's national best practices. It's been recommended by the National Academy of Sciences."

Green is one of two authors of the amendment that would transfer control of the Hennepin County crime lab and put it under a Forensic Crimes Service Director, who will report to the Assistant County administrator.

Sheriff Richard Stanek says many fear a decline in services.

"I've been adamantly opposed to it, and I continue to be adamantly opposed to it," he said. "Best practice in the state of Minnesota -- four out of four crime labs operate out of the auspices of a law enforcement agency. There have been no scandals. There's been no outcry of doing something wrong, which usually facilitates some change. This is a solution in search of a problem, and that's the worst way to make public policy."

Commissioner Green disagrees.

"Minneapolis is at a moment where they are considering capital expenditures for their crime lab, and we will be shortly, too, since our crime lab shares with the medical examiner, and the medical examiner is moving," she said. "We have a possibility of having a bigger crime lab in that space, or maybe at another location."

Sheriff Stanek believes the public should be part of the discussion.

"An amendment is supposed to be something lower level, but they're trying to run this through with no public input, no input from the stakeholders -- that being those 44 cities, police chiefs, mayors, elected officials and most importantly the residents," he said.

Police chiefs, mayors and residents in some of the cities potentially impacted will meet before the Hennepin County Commissioners meeting to voice their opinion.

Commissioners will vote on the measure


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