April 5, 2017 10:37:58 AM
City officials may look to bolster Columbus Police Department's crime lab staffing after an update on a department-wide evaluation from consultant K.B. Turner.
Turner, who the council hired in January to review CPD's organization and operations, provided his first update on the ongoing analysis to the council at Tuesday's meeting. The council hired Turner for $19,000 in January to conduct a six-month review.
During the update, Turner said he visited the crime lab with Capt. Cliff Freeman, a retired chief of detectives with Southaven Police Department and instructor of forensic science at the University of Memphis. Turner noted crime labs are not one of his areas of expertise, but it is for Freeman.
"We were both very impressed with what we saw over there," Turner said of the CPD crime lab. "Then we learned that there were two people working in the crime lab. That was discouraging to both of us, because we understand from our years of experience that you've got to have a good, solid staff in the crime lab."
Turner said, after Mayor Robert Smith asked him for a recommendation, the city should look to hire a full-time forensic scientist and a part-time crime scene investigator at "bare minimum."
"It's something, again, that I would implore you to look very seriously at pretty quickly," Turner said.
During Turner's report, Ward 5 Councilman Stephen Jones said he'd like the city to start taking steps to address the crime lab staffing issue.
"We should be proactive instead of reactive as we often do, and not wait until we actually need somebody else," Jones said.
The crime lab is an area of some concern, Turner said, because it plays a crucial role in the police department's work. He said the city cannot separate having a good police department from having a strong crime lab. He also noted one person leaving the crime lab could have severe repercussions.
"If Chief Lewis had 100 officers right now, responding to calls for service, investigating miscreants and felony calls, and you don't have an efficient, effective crime lab, it's almost all for naught because you've got to have the evidence analyzed," he said. "This is a serious issue, so I would ask that you all begin to think about those numbers seriously."
Turner said the crime lab could generate revenue for the city, if CPD contracts its services to nearby departments. He said that could help offset the cost of hiring more crime lab staff. He later added he was confident the lab could produce more revenue, particularly once the staff is shored up.
"Based on, again, my earlier evaluation with Captain Freeman, in terms of the quality of the work they have been producing, folks will come," he said. "Folks -- being other agencies -- will come."
Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin suggested the city look at hiring two full-time workers. He said he could support hiring either two full-time employees or a full-time and part-time combination, but felt two full-time workers might be more beneficial in the long run.
"My thoughts are, and it's just my thoughts, that if we were to hire two full-time people, we might be able to get more outside work that would pay for that person's full-time work," Gavin said. "In the event that one person should leave or we lose someone for whatever reason, then we have someone who's been there working full time for a while and is ready to step in."
Jones suggested the city could use that additional revenue to move a part-time hire up to full time.
"We could possibly do one (full-time) and (one) part-time, and then as they start making more money for us we could look at promoting that (part-time) person also," Jones said.
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