A little over a year ago, the St. Paul Police Department's crime lab was shut down as a result of shoddy work. Now, the city hopes the new lab and protocols will renew trust in the forensics facility.
With a new location, new equipment and new forensic scientists, the department is opening the doors once more after sloppy, unregulated work shut them in July 2012.
"We did an extensive, extensive review of what we had," Mayor Chris Coleman said. "We had some challenges -- what we were doing right, what we were doing wrong, and where we needed to make some changes."
Before the closure, employees were not following written procedures and there was no oversight. Evidence in thousands of drug cases that was processed there had to be re-tested by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension because of it.
"This is a tough challenge," St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith admitted. "I said a year ago that we're going to un-turn every stone, we're going to take a look at everything. We need to change, and we've done just that."
For now, the lab is focusing primarily on fingerprint analysis, including initial examination and comparison, powdering latent prints, using fuming chambers, utilizing alternate lighting and lasers.
Drug cases won't be sent to the St Paul lab just yet. The BCA will continue to handle those, but with new training, oversight and clear protocol procedures, Smith says he believes the public will begin to trust the results there soon.
"I believe that trust is coming back and is here right now," he said. "That's because of a quality product."
Now that the lab is up and running, the department hopes to get accreditation; however, that process could take between 18 months and 2 years to complete.