"Our goal is independent, efficient and timely evidence testing," said Police Chief Todd Schmaderer. "We have a proven track record with UNMC. This agreement enhances our crime lab services and has opportunities to expand even further."
Chief Schmaderer and Mayor Jean Stothert have advocated for an independent crime lab for several years. UNMC will initially provide drug testing and will continue DNA testing, which has been the practice for more than 15 years. Blood alcohol and urine toxicology testing are expected to be added by the first of the year.
"UNMC is recognized nationally for its quality of work," Mayor Stothert said. "This agreement provides the tools and the independent staff we think are so critical. The evidence needed to achieve a conviction rate that matches our high arrest rate will be reliable and accurate. Juries will trust the evidence."
"The university is proud to expand the diagnostic laboratory testing services for our community. We have provided quality diagnostic crime lab services for the city, several counties and the state for many years. This expansion of services is particularly important at this time, with the opioid epidemic that is sweeping our country and the resultant need for more testing of this type," said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D. "We are honored to assist the city in this endeavor, as we always strive to be a resource to organizations that can benefit from our services.
"We will leverage our experience in chemical preparedness to help meet the needs of the city," said Dr. Gold, noting that the lab equipment UNMC will be using is the same sophisticated equipment that has made the medical center a national leader in the bio and chemical preparedness field.
"Any such testing would be done in a timely manner, usually within five to seven days," said Steven Hinrichs, M.D., professor and chair of the UNMC Department of Pathology and Microbiology. "If it's determined that the test results need to be expedited in a more timely manner, we will perform the testing within 24 hours."
The agreement between the City and UNMC will take effect Oct. 1, if approved by the Omaha City Council.
The ordinance creating the crime lab agreement will be on the council agenda for first reading on Sept. 12. The vote is expected Sept. 26. After approval, Dr. Hinrichs said UNMC would rapidly implement the necessary services to meet the increased volume of cases coming to the lab.