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Crime lab funds OK for next fiscal year
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Manteca Police won’t have to worry about coming up with as  much as $200,000 in budget cuts to cover possible crime lab charges following reassurances from Attorney General Kamala Harris’ office.

Police Chief Dave Bricker has been preparing a “worst-case” scenario going into the fiscal year starting July 1. As a result, he was looking at everything that could become a cost due to the state struggling with its own $28 billion deficit.

Bricker said if the state opted to start charging local jurisdictions for processing evidence at crime labs such as the one in Ripon, the department would be forced to start picking and choosing what drug cases to prosecute.

Attorney General spokesperson Shum Preston on Monday conveyed his boss’ reassurance that there will “absolutely” be full crime lab funding in the upcoming fiscal year. He noted Harris “is committed to keeping crime lab funding” and has told local law enforcement officials whenever she has met with them that she would do everything to protect it.

Preston said it would take an absolutely worst-case scenario - such as eliminating almost all of the Department of Justice’s funding - to imperil crime lab funding by the state.

Bricker was told Monday that the Department of Justice has already moved funding for the crime labs for next year to a protected account.

The police chief said he felt comfortable with the reassurances he received - at least for the coming fiscal year - not to worry about crime lab charges while preparing his department for the city’s own $4 million shortfall that could materialize if spending isn’t brought in line with projected revenues starting July 1.

“That’s one less thing we have to worry about,” Bricker said.

In an e-mail, John Yoshida, who serves as director of the Central Valley Lab in Ripon, said his laboratory is actually receiving additional personnel to handle the ever growing DNA work.

Not having the crime lab funded by state dollars would put a major stress on the city budget. The value of the crime lab services to Manteca is close to the equivalent of the salary and benefits of two police officers.

A drug test for a small meth arrest, for example, could run several hundred dollars while a drug lab would require evidence processing in what Bricker described as “the tens of thousands of dollars.” Currently Manteca is not paying for any lab work that it sends to the Ripon crime lab.

The state has already made decisions impacting local law enforcement. Included is diverting money originally intended to be distributed back to local jurisdictions on a per capita basis to improve public safety. That was money that was generated in part from the vehicle license fee hike which Gov. Jerry brown has been unsuccessful in efforts to place a measure on the ballot to ask voters to approve an extension.