OUR VIEWS: Crime lab backlog unacceptable

Oct 31, 2012

Spencer, who is going on trial for the crash resulting in Shumaker’s death, has been free on bond since a few days after the crash.

The long turnaround time for criminal cases is nothing new for our state. The seven Michigan State Police crime labs are underfunded and short-staffed.

The problem substantially escalated in 2008, when the Detroit lab was shut down and denied accreditation, forcing the remaining state labs to pick up the slack.

There is currently a backlog of nearly 10,000 unsolved cases in Michigan. At the start of 2010, that backlog was more than 19,000 cases. That number doesn’t include the nearly 11,000 unprocessed rape kits.

While the numbers are going down, they are still far from acceptable.

The real issue is the turnaround time. Severe backups significantly slow down an investigation. In some cases, it’s taking up to 15 months to process the evidence and deliver justice.

This problem delays closure for victims and their families. It also delays the protection of the public until the suspect can be properly identified and prosecuted.

In too many cases, criminals are out on bond roaming the streets until their trial date finally arrives.

In addition, how many innocent people remain behind bars while evidence that could set them free sits tucked away in a storage facility at a crime lab, waiting to be processed?

Fortunately, Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed a 16 percent funding boost for state police from the state's general fund surplus. Part of that money would be used to add more staff to crime labs.

Let’s hope it’s enough to solve this problem. Our safety and peace of mind depend on it.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Liz Stuck and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.
 

Comments

thirdeye

People may not know this, but the Michigan State Police has full collective bargaining rights already - it's right in our Michigan constitution. Is it any surprise that they aren't getting their jobs done when they can't afford to hire more people? They sure spend a lot of time and money flying those helicopters to look for pot, though.
Yet, people somehow think that Proposal 2 giving all public employees collective bargaining rights will be able to maintain the same public service expectations when more is demanded with fixed budgets... Guess who gets stuck with the bill and suffers? You and me, the taxpayer.

Vladtheimp

Agreed, but I would add "Accident Reconstruction" to the pot copters.

Tri-cities realist

"The problem substantially escalated in 2008, when the Detroit lab was shut down and denied accreditation..." or was it the other way around... Denied accreditation and THEN shut down. Somehow I suspect that is where the REAL story is. Why was their accreditation denied? But I guess I'm one of the few skeptics who contemplates these things. Perhaps some private enterprise competition in the forensic science field could help reduce these backlogs, but good luck getting accredited by the state, we can thank the unions once again.

newspaperlawyer

It's funny that Gov.Synder wants to increase the State Police Budget by 16%... That is a huge amount of money... I'm waiting for the state to assess us tax payers with a special assessment like Grand Haven TWP has put on the tax payers for police services when we already pay for the State Police and County Sheriff thru our property taxes already... more over taxing by the local governments... Special assessments need to be voted in by the voters.... not some TWP Board...

Hope4GH

11,000 unprocessed rape kits? That is awful. Wow. My heart goes out to those waiting for justice.

Vladtheimp

Hope4GH: "11,000 unprocessed rape kits? That is awful. Wow. My heart goes out to those waiting for justice." What's awful is that somehow our caring and sensitive society has produced 11,000 rapists in Michigan alone, given that liberalism has given men so many outlets - premarital sex, extra marital sex, pornography, etc. without any shame or guilt. And what kind of justice do the victims of rapists face - death? long prison sentences? Actually "justice" seems to be about 65 months sentenced to 3 hots and a cot, exercise equipment, big screen tv's and better health care than most of the population gets - much better if you factor in Obamacare. I think we should look at the causes of the underlying problem rather than the failure of yet another department of government. Re-instate the death penalty for rape (either governmental or societal/familial) and I guarantee the number of unprocessed rape kits would be irrelevant.

Lanivan

"Re-instate the death penalty" for rape. Should that rape result in pregnancy, current Republicans want to take away the rights of the mother-victim to choose whether or not to carry to term because, according to their platform, they take an agonizing, complex situation and simplify it by stating the rights of the unborn take precedence over the rights of the born. And then for those Republicans who couldn't begin to hold a rapist so accountable as to promote the death penalty, there are those who want to take the route of "forcible" rape versus "unforcible" rape, or in the case of Republican Senate candidates Richard Mourdock of Indiana and Todd Akin of Arkansas, promote the idea that women have some mechanism that will shutdown the ability to get pregnant from rape or that rape and subsequent pregnancy is "part of God's plan". I can hear it now, "I'm sorry, your Honor, I didn't want to rape her, it was part of God's plan".

Lanivan

""liberalism has given men so many outlets - premarital sex, extra marital sex, pornography...". Vlad - are you suggesting that these problems don't exist in the conservative world?

Post a Comment

Log in to your account to post comments here and on other stories, galleries and polls. Share your thoughts and reply to comments posted by others. Don't have an account on GrandHavenTribune.com? Create a new account today to get started.