Rethinking the Ownership of Crime Labs: No Matter Who Is in Charge, Jurisdictional Commitment Is Key

It is doubtful that any police chief would agree to run a hospital or an engineering firm. Hospitals and engineering firms are not police business, and they require skill sets and value systems unique to those professions. But then again, most police chiefs are not trained or experienced in forensic science yet are entrusted to manage hundreds of crime laboratories across the United States. So what is the difference?

Forensic science, and the sensitivity of the work taking place in U.S. crime laboratories, is an entirely different profession that has almost nothing in common with policing. For those who disagree with this assessment, they might believe that forensic science is, in fact, police business or that it really is not as unique or nuanced as it is made out to be. Both arguments would be entirely false. Rest assured that this article is not an argument to suddenly extract crime laboratories out of police agencies. Instead, it is a call to police administrators to rethink what it means to manage today’s crime laboratories. Despite the vast differences between policing and forensic science, police chiefs should know just how well positioned they are to give crime laboratories exactly what they need—jurisdictional collaboration and commitment.