The Austin City Council on Thursday agreed to a plan that would turn over the city’s police DNA lab to the state.
City Council members voted to authorize city staff to negotiate a Texas Department of Public Safety contract, not to exceed $4 million over 5 years, that would allow the agency to oversee day-to-day operation of the lab, from hiring employees to forensic analysis.
The plan will allow Austin police officials to reopen the lab, which they closed in June after an audit raised concerns over lab analysts’ testing methods.
Austin and Travis County are splitting the costs of the fallout of the DNA lab’s closure. The Travis County Commissioner’s Court approved its part of the agreement on Tuesday, and the City Council approved its part at the council meeting Thursday.
Assistant Police Chief Troy Gay said the lab would employ about nine people, some of whom might already work for DPS. A few Austin police staffers who worked in the lab until it closed last year might return.
On Thursday, the council agreed to hire Van Daal Consulting to help the city move forward in restructuring its DNA lab.
City documents show that police officials see the DPS oversight being a long-term solution.
“It is envisioned that this DPS lab capability will serve as the kernel for the future DNA analysis services being researched and recommended by a consultant under separate agreement,” city documents to the council say.