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TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas law enforcement officers say they need a $55 million investment to help them process evidence and put criminals in jail faster.
They say the Kansas Bureau of Investigation lab in Topeka needs a major overhaul.
It’s housed in a former junior high school. While the outside of the building has its charms, the laboratories inside have testing supplies, machines and boxes stacked on top of each other.
“This isn’t just a story about an old building,” said Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt. “It’s a story about adequate capacity to support public safety around the state.”
The KBI says the scientists who use the machines aim for two things: speed and accuracy.
“It takes more time to do things in a situation where you’re so overcrowded and you’re having to share work space, share technology, share instrumentation,” said Kirk Thompson, Director of the KBI Crime Lab.
“Four out of every 10 Kansas law enforcement agencies report that they have had to dismiss criminal charges entirely or plead them down substantially to much lesser offences because the KBI laboratory didn’t have the capacity to turn evidence around quickly enough for the justice system to work,” said Schmidt.
Schmidt and Thompson say the solution is to build a 100,000 square foot, $55 million lab facility on the campus of Washburn University.
“It’s a large project with a widespread impact that’s not obvious if you don’t work day in and day out in the criminal justice system,” said Schmidt.
He says a new lab would be able to process criminal evidence in about 30 to 60 days.
Thompson says the goal is to have about 1,000 square feet for every scientist. Right now, he says they only have about 400 square feet to work in.
The state legislature will decide whether to approve the project when it returns to work in May.
If the funding is approved, the KBI hopes to complete the building by August 2015.