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Forensics department to officially separate from APD July 1

Austin City Council voted on Feb. 4 to reallocate the nearly $12 million earmarked in APD's budget for the lab into a Forensic Science Bureau.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin Police Department (APD) will officially split with its Forensic Science Department starting on July 1, according to a City memo sent on May 27.

Forensic Science Department Director Dr. Dana Kadavy wrote the memo to Austin Mayor Steve Adler and City councilmembers to provide a summary of progress made toward the transition of being independent from the APD.

Austin City Council voted on Feb. 4 to reallocate the nearly $12 million earmarked in APD's budget for the lab into a Forensic Science Bureau. The $12 million of funds will support nearly 87 full-time jobs, according to the City memo.

RELATED: Forensics lab separated from Austin Police Department after city council vote

In August, City Council voted to chop $150 million from APD's budget, roughly 34% of the department's $434 million total budget. However, officials said almost $80 million of the cuts would separate certain functions and related funding from APD, including forensic science.

The head of the Austin Police Association told KVUE in February he supports the change.

"I think it should have been done years ago," Ken Casaday said. "It gives a third eye, not a police eye, to the evidence that's being examined. It won't be coming from the police department; it will be coming from a neutral third party, which we support."

In the memo, Kadavy said since City Council voted to reallocate the forensics department's resources, it has been focused on "identifying and maintaining the critical systems required for an independent department to provide forensic services."

Kadavy added that forensics relies on roughly 15 Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) to perform daily operations, such as entering and tracking evidence, accessing databases and safely dispatching staff to crime scenes. Being separated from the APD, the department has had to make new agreements to ensure continued access to the CJIS systems. 

Kadavy said these agreements are required before the department can start to fully function, and all employees would need to be onboarded with proper security training and access control.

The department's long-term goal is to become classified as a criminal justice agency, so then it would not need to be dependent on agreements with the APD. However, Kadavy said this process takes nearly 18 to 24 months to accomplish.

“An independently operated forensic science department represents an important step toward rebuilding public trust in forensic services,” Kadavy wrote in the memo. “And well positions the City to provide impartial scientific and support services to the community and criminal justice system.”

To read the full City memo, click here.

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