Updated: Local LEOs weigh-in on DPS lab fees
Update July 28, 2017 following Gov. Greg Abbott's letter to Texas DPS Director Steven C. McCraw concerning lab testing fees.
Gov. Greg Abbott delivered a letter to the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety concerning charging a fee to city and county law enforcement agencies for forensic analysis performed by DPS Crime Labs.
He requested DPS not charge for its lab services and asked DPS Director Col. Steven McCraw to retract his letter notifying local law enforcement agencies of the fees required to make up the deficit budget outlined in Rider 58 of the General Appropriation Act.
"Under no circumstances will I allow the 13 crime labs that DPS operates across the state to be underfunded. However, I firmly believe it is premature to charge a fee at this time," Abbott writes.
Abbott further wrote that Rider 58 "does not mandate that DPS charge a fee for the use of its crime lab services. Rather, the rider appropriates the use of up to $11.5 million in fees collected should DPS decide to charge a fee."
Below is the article as published for the July 28 edition of the Herald-Gazette.
Local law enforcement agencies will the see the cost of crime-fighting go up beginning September 1.
The Texas Department of Public Safety announced late last week it will begin charging fees for forensic testing such as narcotics testing, toxicology, DNA and more.
According to the General Appropriation Act passed by the 85th Texas Legislature, DPS will be required to collect up to $11.5 million in fees for forensic analysis services in order to achieve full budget authorization for DPS Crime Labs.
Jack County Sheriff Tom Spurlock, who filed his upcoming budget with the county June 1, said he is not sure what that will mean for his department.
“They’re going to provide vouchers to a certain extent,” he said. “They don’t know how much and when, but that will help take care of part of it. It’s going to be sometime in September before we know what we’re going to get.”
As for some agencies submitting less lab work because of the cost, he said that’s a possibility.
“It could be that it comes down to departments doing less lab work,” Spurlock said. “Some things you can’t decide to do less, you just have to do. Like processing dope from a dope arrest, to get a conviction, you have to do lab tests to know what it is. We can do little tests here, but our say-so doesn’t count; we have to send it to a lab.”
Jacksboro Police Lt. Connie McGee said her department is in a better time-frame during its budget season in that money can still be allocated for testing.
“We’re going to shoot for $2,000,” McGee said. I don’t know how much the testing is going to cost. We’re going to shoot for $2,000 and if we go above, we’ll adjust and pull the money from somewhere else. If we go below, we’ll adjust for next year and have a better bearing of where we are.”
She added the cost would not deter JPD from doing lab work necessary to get prosecutions or convictions.