Wyoming sets up its own crime lab

Inside Wyoming's crime lab. (May 15, 2014)

WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — For years, there have been reports of delayed justice due to backlogs at state crime labs. Police in Wyoming think they have found a solution in opening their own crime lab.

While not fully operational, work at the Wyoming crime lab is beginning to ramp up. Thursday, supervisor Terra Wesseldyk broke down a stash of suspected marijuana.

“We’re looking for seeds. We’re looking for the shape of the stems,” she said, describing the how she would determine for certain whether the product under her microscope was marijuana.

If Wesseldyk needs more proof of the chemical components, lab workers will spin a sample through a spectrometer.

“What is it and how much of it do we have?” crime scene technician Julia Yurkovska said she and her coworkers aim to find out. “We can do marijuana, heroin. We can do different pills.”

And the fingerprint on the baggy from the marijuana can be checked against other prints in a nationwide database.

“I take it back over here and compare one-to-one and make sure that’s the person here,” fingerprint technician Todd Masula explained.

It’s CSI, Wyoming style.

It’s a rarity for a local police department to have its own crime lab. Most send their evidence to Michigan State Police labs.

Wyoming will still send DNA and other evidence MSP’s way. But now, the department can do drug, alcohol and fingerprints workups in-house.

The big advantage is improving turnaround time to keep court cases moving.

“This is just one way in order to expedite that process,” Wyoming Police Department Cap. Kip Snyder said. “To be sure that instead of evidence taking upwards of weeks sometimes for those results to come back, we’re talking about 24 to 48 hours.”

The technicians at the lab were already working for the city. But instead of only going to a scene, they will analyze what they collect.

Wyoming taxpayers picked up the lab’s price tag of about $100,000, which mostly funded new equipment and added training. The state will reimburse Wyoming PD for the cost of many of the tests, which the city hopes will eventually recoup their costs.

Another cost savings could come from officers spending less time tied up in court.

“Lack of evidence being prepared for court is one reason that often delays a hearing,” Snyder said.

Some tweaks and additional training are still needed. The lab should be full operational by July.

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