Governor Jindal Breaks Ground on North Louisiana Crime Lab
New facility will reduce case backlog and provide hands-on learning for LSU-Health forensic students
SHREVPORT – Today, Governor Bobby Jindal and local officials marked the groundbreaking of the new North Louisiana Criminalistics Laboratory (NLCL) in Caddo Parish. The facility will increase forensic support to law enforcement partners in communities across North Louisiana and allow experts to process evidence more efficiently so that crimes can be solved faster. The state committed $24 million in capital outlay funding to build the new crime lab.
The new facility will expand forensic services for North Louisiana law enforcement officials in 29 parishes, and help reduce the lab’s current case backlog, which includes 800 cases that need DNA and firearms identification analysis. The new facility will also provide more space for development of forensic pathology and toxicology in Louisiana.
Additionally, the new facility will be large enough to meet the evidence analysis demand of North Louisiana. Currently, local criminal justice agencies spend millions to send evidence out-of-state to be analyzed. Approximately 20 of the parishes in the NLCL service area are using out-of-state providers for forensic pathology services, and all 29 parishes are using out-of-state providers for forensic toxicology services. Once the new crime lab is complete, the fees that are paid to out-of-state providers will be redirected to NLCL and these funds will stay in-state, helping spur the creation of up to 30 new jobs at the crime lab with average salaries of $65,000.
The new lab will also provide hands-on learning experience for LSU-Health forensic students, who will be able to work in the new facility and access new forensic technology. The new building will be built on property that is part of the LSU-Health Shreveport campus, and will be used as a teaching facility for areas of Forensic Pathology through LSU-Health, as well as graduate studies programs in Forensic Science in its School of Allied Health.
Governor Jindal said, “Our number one priority is to protect our most vulnerable and that means keeping criminals off the streets so they can be brought to justice. That’s why when I entered office, I made a commitment to partner with law enforcement across our state to pursue criminals more aggressively and keep our communities safe. This new crime lab is proof of that commitment, and it illustrates what can be accomplished in our fight against crime when local law enforcement and the state come together. We committed this funding because it will help reduce case backlogs for local law enforcement officials and help solve crimes more quickly.”
In addition to reducing the backlog of cases in the lab’s DNA and firearm identification divisions, the new lab will allow for the development of other services not currently offered in North Louisiana. These services include training in the areas of evidence collection and crime scene investigation for rural law enforcement that do not have their own Crime Scene Investigation Units. The new facility will also expand forensic services into other disciplines such as physical and digital evidence processing. All of these new services will be offered at no additional cost to taxpayers.
Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator said, “This crime lab announcement is going to go a long way in supporting North Louisiana law enforcement, our mission of fighting crime and the economy in this region. It will also help our DAs prosecute criminals faster, ultimately keeping our communities safer. I am grateful for Governor Jindal and the Legislature, who supported this world-class lab and our vision for a safer Louisiana.”
NLCL System Director Jimmy D. Barnhill said, “The groundbreaking today symbolizes the culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of people over the past 8 years. However, we would not be here today without the strong support of Governor Bobby Jindal and the Legislative Delegation from the NLCL Service area. It has been a personal pleasure to work with the NLCL Commission and law enforcement community officials—District Attorneys, Sheriffs and Coroners—in planning the new North Louisiana Criminalistics Laboratory. A key development that will make this a facility on the cutting edge of forensic science has been the willingness of LSU Health to provide the building site for the new NLCL, and through its Pathology Department, provide help in developing the new forensic services of Forensic Pathology and Forensic Toxicology. I would like to add that it has been very gratifying, personally, to work on a project that will provide a full range of forensic services to North Louisiana, perhaps, for the remainder of this century. This is every forensic scientist’s dream.”
Caddo Parish District Attorney and Chairman of the North Louisiana Criminalistics Laboratory Commission Charles Scott said, “The North Louisiana Crime Lab has consistently maintained a high level of accreditation, and this new facility will build on our current ability to protect our children and communities and ensure justice is swiftly served. In order to maintain a healthy economy and attract safety-conscious businesses, we need to make our area as safe as possible. This new facility will help all of our law enforcement officials do just that.”
LSU-Health Shreveport Chancellor Dr. Robert Barish said, “This beautiful new forensic sciences center will not only add to the beauty of our campus, it will also enhance our academic mission. It is our hope and our plan, under the leadership of our Department of Pathology, to start a Forensic Pathology fellowship at LSU Health Shreveport. This facility we are celebrating today will be a tremendous boost in our efforts to establish the new fellowship program. It will also provide opportunities to expose our medical and allied health students to forensic sciences in a state-of-the-art facility.”
Rep. Patrick Williams said, “It was eight years ago that the request for the construction of this project was first made, and by working with the Administration and local officials I can say that today we are providing our Shreveport citizens with greater economic and educational opportunities as well as public safety protection.”
About the North Louisiana Criminalistics Lab
The NLCL service area has a population base of 1.2 million, and also includes about one-half of the state’s land area. The NLCL provides services to law enforcement agencies in this area, including all local police departments, sheriff’s offices, coroners and fire departments. It will also service the State Fire Marshall, State Police, federal agencies like the FBI and military bases such as Barksdale and Fort Polk.
Parishes that will be served by the new crime lab include: Avoyelles, Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Caldwell, Catahoula, Claiborne, Concordia, Desoto, East Carroll, Franklin, Grant, Jackson, LaSalle, Lincoln, Madison, Morehouse, Natchitoches, Ouachita, Rapides, Red River, Richland, Sabine, Tensas, Union, Vernon, West Carroll, Webster and Winn.