In a transfer lengthy advocated for by survivors of sexual assault, the Austin Metropolis Council voted Thursday to formally switch its forensics bureau out from underneath the police division. It should now perform as an impartial entity.
“This transfer is a very long time coming,” Council Member Greg Casar mentioned earlier than the unanimous vote. “It’s due to many survivors and advocates sharing their tales that we’re capable of make the lab lastly impartial of the police division.”
Thursday’s vote is an element of a bigger dialog about how Austin needs its police division to perform. Final summer time, Council members voted to immediately cut $20 million from the Austin Police Division’s funds and use the cash on public well being and housing.
On the identical time, Council members voted to maneuver a number of divisions out from underneath the police division, together with the forensics bureau. The choice takes one other $80 million from the police funds.
Thursday’s vote makes the lab’s transfer official, as Council OK’d the creation of a brand new and impartial Forensic Science Division.
The choice can have no impact on present staff, in keeping with town supervisor’s workplace.
Austin’s DNA lab, which has obtained huge consideration over the previous few years, won’t be instantly moved underneath the brand new division, nonetheless. Its future stays a bit unclear.
The Texas Division of Public Security took management of the lab from the Austin Police Division in 2017 after state auditors raised considerations about how analysts had been processing samples. In October, the city released an extensive and long-overdue report on what occurred on the lab and the way it could be run sooner or later. Exterior consultants wrote that town would profit from having a DNA lab impartial from the police division.
“Any DNA laboratory established inside the Metropolis of Austin ought to have a construction of independence, scientific excellence, transparency, and operational excellence and effectivity,” the consultants wrote.
Per metropolis contract, the lab will probably be managed by DPS till early 2022, and presumably longer, a metropolis spokesperson confirmed. However a spokesperson for Casar’s workplace mentioned the DNA lab will “ultimately” develop into a part of the brand new forensics division or a separate, impartial entity.
Supporters of survivors of sexual assault say that’s massively essential.
“To be trustworthy, we’re tremendous excited,” Amanda Lewis, co-founder of the Survivor Justice Community, advised KUT. “Once we take (the DNA lab) out of APD … it’s actually in its personal place, correctly, led by scientists and never weighed priority-wise primarily based on what else APD has happening.”
This story was produced as a part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.
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