http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll...381/1409/METRO Tuesday, October 30, 2007 State to close two crime labs Law enforcement officials upset, say processing evidence will take a lot longer. Mike Martindale and George Hunter / The Detroit News STERLING HEIGHTS -- The Michigan Legislature's decision to shutter two State Police crime labs, as part of the effort to balance Michigan's budget, hit hard across Michigan's law enforcement community Monday. From Macomb County to the Upper Peninsula, police disagreed with the decision to close the labs in Sterling Heights and Marquette, which many rely on to process fingerprints, ballistics and drug analysis, among other evidence. "The people who will be affected the most by this, unfortunately, are the victims of crime," said James Langtry, chief of operations for the Macomb Prosecutors Office. "I would hate to have a rape case where we're in front of a judge and we have to ask for an adjournment because the DNA hasn't gotten back from the lab yet, but I can see that happening. Already there is a six-month wait to process DNA, and this certainly isn't going to help." Lawmakers and Granholm, having already raised taxes, are trying to find $433 million in cuts to balance the state budget for the fiscal year that started at the beginning of the month. The month-long reprieve that the legislature and governor gave themselves by passing a continuation budget Oct. 1 expires at midnight Halloween. Without a new agreement, or another continuation budget, some state services would be shut down as they were for four hours Oct. 1. But as compromise spending bills began to make their way through the Legislature Monday, lawmakers and aides said that now appears unlikely. Under the State Police budget plan passed by the House and Senate on Monday and headed to the governor's desk, workers at the Marquette lab will be laid off and 19 workers in Sterling Heights will be absorbed at unaffected labs in Lansing, Northville, Bridgeport, Grand Rapids and Grayling. It's expected to save $1 million and will mean no State Police post closures and no reduction in trooper strength. "I'm surprised the governor and (State Police) director would allow that to happen," Macomb County Sheriff Mark Hackel said. "They know the crime lab is the No. 1 support service we request from the State Police." Clinton Township Police Chief Fred Posavetz described the action as disappointing. "The lab was nearby, which enabled us to drop off evidence easily," said Posavetz. "I would be remiss if I said this isn't going to affect us it will." Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard pointed out the decision laid 50 percent of $2 million in budget cuts to a division that accounts for less than 10 percent of the State Police's total budget. "It's going to mean a longer wait for evidence before warrants can be obtained which means criminals will be out on the street, perhaps committing other crimes, longer than they should be," said Bouchard. "It's frustrating and wrong." Bouchard said his department -- unlike most -- handles its own fingerprint, firearms and narcotics analysis but still rely on State Police labs for processing blood and DNA evidence. But perhaps the hardest hit by the decision are police departments scattered across the Upper Peninsula that will now drive, fly or mail evidence to crime labs located hundreds of miles away. "The next nearest lab for us now is in Grayling, on the other side of the (Mackinac) bridge," said Sault Ste. Marie Chief Louis Murray. "It will certainly impact us." Escanaba Public Safety Director James Hansen, who also represents police agencies across the U.P. on the Michigan Chiefs of Police Association, described the deal as "terrible." "Marquette is an hour drive from Escanaba and Grayling is four hours away," said Hansen. "I knew they were trying to cut $2 million from the budget but didn't figure they would go for the crime labs. "If you lay off 29 MDOT workers, no one cares. You shut down crime labs and police chiefs and sheriffs scream." You can reach Mike Martindale at (248) 647-7226.