Aurora police, Arapahoe and Douglas sheriffs eye crime lab consolidation

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AURORA | Aurora police could soon be sharing a high-tech crime laboratory with the Arapahoe County and Douglas County sheriff’s offices.

The plan, which received initial approval this week from Aurora City Council’s Public Safety Committee, would see the three agencies sharing a crime lab that officials say would mean they no longer have to rely on the often-backlogged Colorado Bureau of Investigation lab for DNA and other testing.

Sandra Wiese, a latent fingerprint examiner and crime scene investigator for Aurora police analyzes fingerprints at the department's crime lab April 19.  The Colorado Bureau of Investigation this month announced plans to replace the state's 20-year-old fingerprint system.  (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)“We have some very serious cases that are sitting there, waiting for the DNA test results to come back,” Metz said. That wait time on DNA tests is often several weeks or several months, Metz said.

For some gun cases, Metz said the department sends evidence to the Denver Police Department’s crime lab to be analyzed, but that, too, can take a while.

Arapahoe County Sheriff Dave Walcher said that because of the DNA backlog, in some lower-level cases, such as burglaries, investigators don’t bother testing DNA because it can take so long to get the results back.

Because the plan is in the very early stages, detailed costs and specifics about how the facility would be managed haven’t been hammered out.

Already, Douglas County is spending more than $93,000 on a feasibility study looking into the project.

In a memo detailing Douglas County’s efforts so far, officials there said they have been researching potential properties and locations, but until that feasibility study is complete those efforts are premature.

Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said Monday his county has already set aside about $6 million that could be used for the project, and that money would likely go toward purchasing a building. He said an area around Dove Valley — which is fairly close for all three agencies to use, could be ideal.

In the memo, Douglas County officials said Arapahoe County would then contribute equipment, personnel and funding, while Aurora would chip in scientists and equipment.

Spurlock said the shared lab would be a good fit for his agency because they are already sending 60 percent of their cases to outside labs like Aurora’s, Denver’s or CBI’s for testing.

Walcher said with Aurora being the area’s largest police department, the bulk of the lab’s cases would likely come from Aurora.

“Aurora will be the biggest user of this,” Walcher said.

In Jefferson County, officials already share a similar facility, Walcher said. He said if this joint facility comes to fruition, it would likely be used not just by Aurora, Douglas and Arapahoe Counties, but also smaller agencies inside the 18th Judicial District, which includes Arapahoe, Douglas, Lincoln and Elbert counties.

Aurora is split between the 18th and 17th judicial districts, with everything north of East Colfax Avenue being part of the 17th Judicial District.

Spurlock said he doesn’t think there would be a problem using the lab for all of Aurora’s cases, not just those that occur south of Colfax Avenue.

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Joe Hardhat
Joe Hardhat
6 years ago

CBI is a joke … it has always been a day late and a dollar short. Many of the CBI technicians retire in their 50s and then take a job with Denver PD Crime Lab or elsewhere. This new multi-jurisdictional crime lab will see many applicants from from CBI and the state health department lab.