Anytime there is a substantial dollar investment in the local community it is good news, and that is why the new Oregon State Police crime lab facility is significant.
The state police agency invested about $4.5 million in the new facility on 612 Airport Road, a signal that it considers Pendleton to be an ideal site for the lab. Geographically, Pendleton makes a lot of sense as the place for a centralized station for the crime lab. The local site is also noteworthy because it will logically cut down on the time police spend traveling across the region. That means, hopefully, the time spent solving crimes will be narrowed.
For most of us the presence of a crime lab may seem mildly interesting, but such facilities are crucial for police. Especially in a place such as Eastern Oregon — where police resources are already limited — a nearby crime lab can make a real difference.
At least two top local police officials — Hermiston chief Jason Edmiston and Pendleton top cop Stuart Roberts — believe the lab will make an impact.
Forensic science plays a key role in our state criminal system. A crime lab can be — and often is — the difference in a conviction during a trial of a serious crime. Conversely, labs, such as the one in town, can also be used to absolve suspects and allow law enforcement agencies to quickly focus on a criminal.
The investment by the state police in the crime lab shows that the agency hasn’t forgotten about Eastern Oregon. We also hope that at least into the foreseeable future the budget hatchet will not float over the local lab as it has so often done in the past.
The issue isn’t just about the crime lab. Too often in the past state bean counters have found ways to hamstring state police funding. The state has done better over the past few years, earmarking taxpayer dollars to fund more state police, but far, far more needs to be done.
Public safety always seems to be one of those quick sound bites politicians throw out during election time and then, once the polls have closed, the talk evaporates.
But funding public safety at the state level should never really be a debate. The truth is more state troopers — and more logistical capabilities like a crime lab — are needed, not less.
The new crime lab in Pendleton is good news. Now, the next step for state lawmakers is to fund more state troopers to patrol our highways.