Last month the Cincinnati Enquirer highlighted the growing tension between local law enforcement officials and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office over the AG’s plan to replace the local crime lab in Hamilton County with a new, state-run crime lab in Butler County.
Local law enforcement leaders and the county coroner complained that Mike DeWine had not included them in these discussions. Emails obtained by Plunderbund confirm this account.
The emails show that county administrators and the AG’s office spent months discussing plans for a regional crime lab in Southwest Ohio without ever consulting local law enforcement, who use the crime lab every day, or the county coroner, who runs the existing crime lab.
On May 13, 2013, County Administrator Christian Sigman specifically asked AG employee Charlie Norman about his communications with the coroner writing: “Are you contacting the Coroner as well?” Charlie’s response: “I haven’t reached out to her recently.” Christian replies: “You may want to check the commission offices.”
Three months later, the administrator continues to hold off on contacting them “Let me chat with the U.C. folks first…need to keep the county coroner and the Sheriff on the reservation until we work the other angles first.”
In November, 2013, BCI director Tom Stickrath asks for a meeting quickly with DeWine about the new lab, saying : “Things are moving quickly, especially re. Hamilton County.” Even as they are rushing to finalize plans for the new lab in SW Ohio, it appears that the coroner and the local sheriff have still been excluded from these discussions.
Based on an email from December, 2013, it appears the Hamilton County Coroner, Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, did not actually find out about DeWine’s plans for the regional crime lab until she read about them in a news article. She was finally graced with a phone call from Stickrath in January.
As the Enquirer reported last month, both the coroner and local law enforcement have expressed concerns about replacing their local crime lab with a state-run lab. Both are worried that “the state wouldn’t provide evidence testing as quickly and efficiently as the Hamilton County-run crime lab.”
The Enquirer also reported that a May 6th meeting between law enforcement representatives and Mike DeWine effectively killed any chances of replacing the Hamilton County lab with a state lab. “We hope the county and state officials realize when it comes to law enforcement issues, local law enforcement officers have to be included,” said Thomas Synan, president of the Hamilton County Police Association. “Not just so we’re informed, but because we represent the people.”
Democratic AG Candidate David Pepper released his own plan today that would “restart the partnership with local labs, sharing work, resources and strengths as opposed to engaging in a needless competition.” According to Pepper, his approach “will save taxpayer dollars, and deliver more timely, higher quality results to agencies who rely on this critical work.”