Abbott Asks DPS To Reverse Crime Lab Fees Policy
This month, the Department of Public Safety sent out a letter informing local law enforcement agencies it would begin charging them a fee for use of the state’s forensic crime labs. But in a letter released Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott has demanded that DPS abandon this effort.
As part of the budget passed by the Texas Legislature in 2017, lawmakers instructed DPS officials that they would be short 11.5 million dollars of their overall two year budget but could make up that amount of funding by charging a fee for their services, like use of the state’s forensic crime lab.
Last week DPS officials sent out a letter informing local law enforcement groups they would begin charging $550 per test, any time they were asked to analyze DNA evidence related to a crime.
It’s a move that upset many rural law enforcement leaders like Jackson County Sheriff Andy Louderback in Southeast Texas, whose community doesn’t have its own forensic lab and relies on the state.
“Local agencies throughout the state have utilized the 13 crime labs in the State of Texas to do the vast majority of our criminal evidence analysis. We’ve never been charged any kind of fee for evidence work," Louderback explains.
And that is how Gov. Abbott intends to keep things. In a letter to DPS Director Steve McCraw, Abbott said that in no circumstance would he allow the Department of Public Safety to become underfunded, but he felt it was premature to begin charging a fee for its services.
Abbott told DPS officials that the overall amount of money they received from the state legislature should be sufficient to run the state’s crime labs for the next two years.