El Paso City Council hires outside lab to run police department's crime lab

POSTED: 09:32 PM MDT Aug 28, 2012    UPDATED: 03:50 PM MST Mar 01, 2014 
EL PASO, Texas -

An interesting argument at Tuesday's City Council meeting was over who should pay for the El Paso Police Department's crime laboratory services - a lab that recently found itself under scrutiny for several violations.

The crime lab failed the accreditation process which left the lab, which tests substances such as marijuana, cocaine and other controlled substances, out- sourcing its operations and delaying some drug cases.

City Council voted 6 to 1 to hire Integrated Forensic Laboratories (IFL) the group hired temporarily to help with that out-sourcing, as a permanent in-house option.

It will cost about half-a-million dollars a year or $2.5 million over the next five years.

City Rep. Dr. Michiel Noe voted against it because of that high cost, stating there was still a free option, which was having the Texas Department of Public Safety handle all of the testing

Noe also objected to the City paying for the entire cost and not involving the County, which he said also benefits from crime lab services.

District Attorney Jaime Esparza said sending testing to DPS takes longer and the majority of his drug cases come from within the city, while the county shares other costs.

"I have to tell you, 90 percent of my business are (city) cases, not the County cases ... We share costs, you absorb some costs in some areas and we absorb some costs in other areas," Esparza said.

"This should be a shared responsibility in my opinion," Noe said. "We've got a lot of other things we can do with that mone. We could fund police academies with it and yet we're funding a lab for a half-a-million dollars a year."

El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said despite the City having to bear the entire cost, hiring IFL for in-house testing was the best option for his department.