Proposed crime lab for Aurora police, Arapahoe and Douglas counties sheriffs inches forward

Although council members raised no objection to the proposed intergovernmental agreement between the three entities at the council's study session, the pact for a joint crime lab is not official until a resolution is passed at a regular council meeting. That could happen as soon as the next regular meeting Jan. 23

AURORA | The Aurora City Council Monday night gave an initial green light for the Aurora Police Department to create a joint crime lab with sheriffs’ offices from Arapahoe and Douglas counties.

Although council members raised no objection to the proposed intergovernmental agreement between the three entities at the council’s study session, the pact is not official until a resolution is passed at a regular council meeting. That could happen as soon as the next regular meeting Jan. 23.

The new multi-county crime lab was first tabled at a city council policy committee meeting in November 2015.

Douglas County is covering the bulk of the upfront costs for the facility, which will be located on the west side of Peoria Street between Liberty Boulevard and Aviator Way and adjacent to the Centennial Airport, according to city documents. While Douglas County is fronting the cost for the construction of the new facility, Aurora and Arapahoe County are on the hook for many of the shared costs tied to equipment, IT infrastructure, and current and future staffing.

The Douglas County commissioners signed off on the plan last month. County commissioners in Arapahoe County are expected to discuss the agreement later this month, according to city documents.

The lab is expected to be completed in the summer of 2018.

Each of the three participating entities will make their agreed-upon payments over a 20-year period. Aurora is slated to contribute approximately $30 million, 11 existing staff members and three future staffers; Douglas County plans to pony up $23 million with five current staffers and one future worker; Arapahoe County has been tabbed to dish out $15 million, five current staff members and six future staffers, according to Nancy Rodgers from the City Attorney’s office.

“Aurora’s bringing its operation, Arapahoe County is bringing the promise of additional staff — five now and then six in the future, which is more than the other two entities — Douglas County is bringing the building,” Rodgers said. “So the numbers might seem different but there’s a reason for that. We’re bringing to the party what we can right now.”

The lab’s governing board will be comprised of seven voting members: Sheriffs from Arapahoe and Douglas counties, the Aurora chief of police, and the district attorney for the 18th Judicial District. The lab director of the current Aurora crime lab will serve as the joint lab’s director, but will not have a vote on the facility’s governing board.

At the recent study session, Aurora police chief Nick Metz said the new lab will allow his department to request DNA evidence in more cases — not just those that are deemed to be the most pressing.

“Not only could we submit evidence for the most serious types of crimes to get DNA testing done and get it back in a quick and reasonable period of time, but also request DNA lab testing for even lesser crimes such s burglary and so forth that we typically don’t ask for now,” he said.

Currently, Aurora and many other police departments around the state have to send DNA evidence requests to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for testing. The DNA request backlog at CBI is currently so jammed that police departments often have to wait several months before their requests are processed.

Other Front Range entities have created similar multi-agency labs in recent years, according to city documents.