JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri State Highway Patrol unveiled an expansion of its crime lab Wednesday, touting a new DNA testing facility and hopes for increased efficiency.
“The DNA Section is a laboratory setting with highly trained analysts and technicians, but the crime lab team never loses sight of the fact that each case they process represents an opportunity to help bring justice to an innocent victim, the people for whom we work,” Department of Public Safety Director Sandy Karsten said. “We are very fortunate to have the skilled team we have, and that they’ll now have a state of the art facility in which to do their invaluable work.”
The new facility is an expansion of the Highway Patrol’s main crime lab. The 8,000 square-foot section will be devoted entirely to DNA testing when it officially opens next year. The lab will house 20 full-time employees, including five analysts currently undergoing training.
Karsten was joined by Gov. Mike Parson and Missouri State Highway Patrol Superintendent Colonel Eric Olson at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Parson said the expansion would increase testing efficiency.
“This crime lab expansion and the additional lab personnel will allow the Highway Patrol to process more sexual assault and other critical DNA cases more quickly and efficiently,” Parson said. “Fighting crime and bringing criminals to justice takes more than law enforcement officers alone. We’re extremely appreciative of all the crime lab and other civilian personnel who help solve crimes and make Missouri safer.”
The previous DNA lab only took up a 3,000-square-foot operating area, according to Olson. He said the extra room would increase efficiency and allow the lab to handle more cases than it does now.
“The Missouri State Highway Patrol appreciates the General Assembly and Gov. Parson’s strong support for this project,” he said. “The increased capacity will make the laboratory more effective and efficient in handling cases.”
Funding for the expansion was appropriated in 2019. The lab was designed by Kansas City-based Environetics Inc and constructed by Cahills Construction of Rolla. The project cost around $2.7 million.
The lab will take on the state’s rape kit backlog when it officially opens. An audit performed by the Attorney General’s Office last year identified a backlog of more than 6,000 untested kits. Most of the tests are currently outsourced to other states.
The lab will undergo a cleaning process in addition to performance tests on equipment before officially moving personnel in. The current DNA lab will be taken over by other workers testing fingerprints, firearms, and other evidence.