Despite a backlog of cases, the Austin Police Department forensic lab will begin testing cases from Hays County.This is precisely why Grits supports fee for service payment structure statewide: If the state won't provide quick testing, counties must pay to have it done elsewhere, shifting to a fee for service model by default. It just happens in a piecemeal, disorderly fashion. Other counties including Dallas already operate fee for service labs, while the public lab in Bexar County provides forensic services outside its jurisdiction (and in, as I understand it) on a fee for service basis.
Hays County agencies will pay fees to the APD lab to have forensic evidence examined. The testing will include DNA, firearms, drug, and latent prints.
“This is the first time we have offered this to an external entity,” said Bill Gibbons, the forensic services manager for APD.
Gibbons said the extra workload will not slow down APD cases because overtime hours will be used for Hays County testing.
Grits has argued that "DPS' 'free for everybody' model creates false incentives and is IMO unsustainable as demand for crime lab services is growing much faster than the actual crime rate. Switching to a fee for service model would rationalize the process from a budget perspective and stop taxpayers in jurisdictions with their own crime labs from subsidizing the rest of the state." Taxpayers in jurisdictions with their own crime labs, i.e., urban taxpayers, like in Austin and Houston, are being double-taxed to pay not only for lab costs in their own towns but to pay for lab work in counties that rely on DPS. So at least, I suppose, the Austin crime lab will now get paid to do Hays County's work instead of subsidizing it with taxes, but the fundamental financial disconnect remains.
Incidentally, the TV station reported that paying for forensic services in Austin is cheaper than getting them for "free" from DPS because the wait entails extra local costs, particularly at the jail. They've calculated that:
using the APD lab would save money in the long run.If DPS shifted to a fee for service model and its backlogs declined - both from reduced submissions and expanded capacity available when counties pay for testing - local governments in small counties across the state would see similar savings. A lot of people are stuck on the idea that crime lab services at DPS are "supposed to be" free. But those "free" services are becoming more and more expensive each day.
Hays County has been using the Department of Public Safety lab which services more than 200 counties in Texas. That leads to big backlogs and the longer a case waits to be tested, the more it costs.
The DA’s office estimated that cases taking nearly three months to process in the DPS lab would be finished in almost two weeks using the APD lab.