Could Memphis open its own crime lab? - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Could Memphis open its own crime lab?

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Nashville's new $40 million crime lab and police precinct (Matt Gerien / FOX13 News) Nashville's new $40 million crime lab and police precinct (Matt Gerien / FOX13 News)
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NASHVILLE and MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

In the wake of Nashville's Metro Police Department opening a $40 million crime lab and police precinct this week, could Memphis open its own crime lab?

FOX13 News has learned a group of Memphis Police officers traveled to Nashville to look into that very question.

The Memphis Police Department was looking into opening a new DNA crime lab to help clear up the 12,000 backlog of rape kits and investigate other crimes moving forward. But a MPD spokeswoman said the department decided it's better off using a third party for its DNA testing.

MORE: Comparing crime in Nashville to crime in Memphis


As the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department prepared to open its new crime lab, a group of Memphis Police officers visited to learn how the state-of-the-art facility was set up and how it will operate.

The Nashville Metro Police hired forensic scientists from around the country to staff the new facility. There's a full service DNA laboratory. They investigate evidence from murders, rapes, and even low level property crimes.

They can test ballistics in the firearms lab and there are drug testing facilities, a fingerprint analysis, everything you need for a state-of-the-art crime lab.
 
The Memphis officers were studying if the MPD could build its own DNA lab, in part to help clear the department's more than 12,000 backlogged rape kits.

"We do need that here," said Mayor A C Wharton, who is familiar with Nashville's new crime lab.

But can the city of Memphis afford its own version?
 
"With our present budgetary challenges in the short term it is not, I'll just have to be frank and candid with you," Mayor Wharton said.

Nashville's new building cost $40 million and the Nashville metropolitan government paid for it entirely through its general fund and capital improvement budget. Property values in Nashville are much higher than they are in Memphis.

As a result Nashville is a much richer city than Memphis. In the mean time Memphis is grappling with its pension program and budget shortfalls. Mayor Wharton said he's working to improve things over the long term.

"The key to it is stabilizing our property values and enhancing them so we will have revenue," Mayor Wharton said, who added that will help pay for some of these things like crime labs.

This year the MPD is dealing with about $6 million in budget cuts. In late December Police Director Toney Armstrong said the cuts were starting to affect the department's elite units like TACT and Organized Crime.
 
On Jan. 21 the city council's public safety committee will hold discussions concerning the police budget and Director Armstrong is expected to attend.

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