Council takes first step for independent crime lab

Published On: Jun 06 2012 03:24:35 PM CDT   Updated On: Jun 06 2012 05:32:13 PM CDT
HOUSTON -

Houston City Council took the first step Wednesday to have an independent crime lab take over Houston police cases.

Numerous problems with HPD's crime lab have surfaced in the past, including a backlog of 6,600 untested rape kits and mistakes that led to erroneous convictions.

Mayor Annise Parker said the buck stops here.

"At some point, we say from this point forward, we're not going to mess this up," she said.

Houston City Council took the first official step to cut HPD out of the deal. In the future, the date remains unknown, all the crime scene evidence will be tested by a new independent lab.

"Not swayed by police and prosecutors for quick resolution so they can move on to the next case," Parker said.

A newly appointed panel will hash out the massive to-do list needed before the new lab is created and built.

"I think the first priority is to figure out what the first priority is," said State Rep. Scott Hochberg, the chairman of the new board.

City council approved the creation of the overseeing panel 13 to 2.

Dissenting voices wondered why the city would take on such an expensive project when the county is already working on the same thing. A similar debate has been ongoing over the Harris County Jail for 34 years.

"There's no excuse why the city and county can't get together, but as councilman Gonzalez said we've been trying to get the jail together and just can't get it done," said Ray Hunt, the president of the Houston Police Officers Union.

The new board would hire a director and propose an annual budget for the council'sĀ approval.