Spokane Journal of Business

Design work to begin on $10 million crime lab

Facility could open by 2005 on EWU’s campus; school will add forensic degree

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The Washington State Patrol soon will begin pre-design work on a $10 million crime laboratory to be built on the Cheney campus of Eastern Washington University.

In conjunction with that planning, EWU will take steps to institute a degree program in forensic science, which the university claims will be the first such program in the Pacific Northwest.

The Washington Legislature recently approved $400,000 in planning money to begin the first stages of designing the 32,000-square-foot crime lab. If the Legislature approves future budget requests, the new lab could open by 2005, says Willie Boxhoorn, of the state patrols office of media relations, in Olympia.

The crime lab provides scientific analysis of evidence, such as blood, semen, shreds of clothing, and bullets, to support criminal justice agencies throughout the state. The state patrol operates seven of the labs statewide.

Currently, the Spokane lab is located in the basement of the Public Safety Building, at 1100 W. Mallon. It employs 17 people, 16 of whom are scientists.

EWU has agreed to lease to the state patrol for $1 a year land on which to build the new lab. The state patrol will construct and own the building.

Stephen Jordan, president of EWU, says in a letter agreeing to the arrangement that it fits perfectly with the expansion and upgrade of our criminology program, which is currently under way. The school already offers bachelors degrees in biotechnology, chemistry, medical technology, and criminal justice.

Also, EWU and the crime lab already have ties, he adds: College students have interned at the lab, and lab personnel have taken classes at the college. In addition, EWU has loaned lab space to the crime lab for the past year and a half.

EWU hopes to set up its new forensic science degree program by the fall quarter of 2002, the letter says.

The state patrol says that another advantage to building a new crime lab in the Spokane area is that would allow it to perform some toxicology tests here that currently are sent to Seattle.

The patrol is seeking funding to hire four additional scientists to do those tests in the Spokane lab.

Currently, testing for the presence of alcohol, drugs, and poisons in blood, urine, and tissue is done in Seattle, and about 25 percent of the toxicology labs caseload comes from Eastern Washington, the state patrols Boxhoorn says.

Having toxicologists based here would improve turnaround times, and allow greater access to expert-witness testimony and consultations with scientists.

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