State crime lab case backlog is unacceptable

This isn’t CSI. That’s for sure.
Dec 16, 2013


For years now, our police officials and neighbors have had to wait, wait longer, then wait even longer for lab results from criminal cases.

The most recent case to impact our community is the investigation into a baby boy’s death at a local day care facility.

In September, a state investigation revealed that a care provider gave the “fussy” baby a painkiller before putting him down for a nap from which he never woke. But the criminal investigation, and final determination of the cause of death, still hangs in the balance. Did the little boy die of SIDS, a congenital defect, or was it the painkiller?

We don’t know. Why? The toxicology and other results from the baby’s autopsy are pending at one of three state labs that handle such specimens.

That’s more than three months of waiting for the day care provider, for the baby’s grieving family and for law enforcement.

But, wait, sayeth the director of the state lab — that’s a better turnaround time than it was just a few years ago.

Whew. What a relief.

Now, instead of waiting 6-9 months, results are often back in three months – or longer – depending upon the situation. And, if we’re willing to wait until 2016, there may only be a 30-day turnaround. Maybe.

This level of service is just not acceptable.

Because of this notorious backlog, some communities in Michigan are looking into the possibility of opening their own crime labs.

We urge our county officials to consider the possibility of creating its own county, or tri-county, lab that could service our needs more quickly and efficiently. Crimes would be solved more quickly, families would get more immediate answers and justice would be swifter.

While the upfront investment would be costly, that investment could pay off in time.

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


retired DOC

One of the reasons for the state backlogs is that the state had to take over the Detroit labs because of its very poor work. (I think I said that in a nice way.)


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