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Austin City Council to vote on separating forensic lab from police department

The vote would move approximately $11.9 million that was previously part of the Austin Police Department's budget into a new Forensic Science Department.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin City Council is set to vote Thursday to approve an ordinance that will create a new forensic lab independent of the Austin Police Department.

According to the agenda for the council's Feb. 4 meeting, council members will vote to approve an ordinance creating the Forensic Science Department. The ordinance would move approximately $11.9 million and almost 87 full-time positions from the APD Decouple Fund, which consists of the positions and funding for the Forensic Science Bureau.

The ordinance would also amend the Fiscal Year 2020-21 general fund budget to transfer those positions and funds to the Forensic Science Department.

According to a press release from Councilmember Greg Casar's office, this ordinance would not eliminate any functions of the forensic lab but would ensure that the lab is administered independently of APD.

"This is an important move for survivors of violence and harm in our community, and an important step for equal justice," Casar said in the release. "It's in the best interest of justice when forensic evidence departments are run by scientists. We never want a rape kit backlog again; we never want cases to be confused in our labs again. We want justice and transparency for all."

In August, the city council voted to chop $150 million from APD's budget, roughly 34% of the department's $434 million total budget. Officials said almost $80 million of the cuts would separate certain functions and related funding from APD, including forensic science. 

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