POLITICS

RCMP lab closure impact to be minimal, says chief

06/13/2012 10:49 EDT | Updated 08/13/2012 05:12 EDT

The head of the Nova Scotia Chiefs of Police Association says he's still waiting for answers on the impending closure of an RCMP forensic lab, but believes the effects will be minimal.

The RCMP announced last month it will be closing forensic laboratories in Halifax, Winnipeg and Regina and consolidating them with three others in a bid to save money and produce more efficient results.

"I'm comfortable in saying that I think the impacts on us will be minimal," said Kentville Police Chief Mark Mander, the president of the Nova Scotia Chiefs of Police Association.

"It's more of an amalgamation of labs so that there'll probably be some synergies in relation to some services that'll be delivered out of the same lab."

The work currently done in the Halifax, Winnipeg and Regina labs will be consolidated in Edmonton, Vancouver and Ottawa. Currently, the six labs specialize in different areas, such as toxicology, blood-spatter analysis and counterfeiting.

The move is expected to save $3.5 million and will reduce redundancy and infrastructure costs such as building maintenance.

"I don't think we're going to see any lag in processing time," said Mander.

Halifax Regional Police Const. Brian Palmeter said his force had no idea the announcement was coming. They've had the luxury of being located close to the lab.

"Anything that we need processed, we send it to the lab and then obviously they would basically decide which evidence gets tested or examined … on a triage basis," Palmeter said Tuesday.

"If it is more pressing, we do have the ability to explain that and request it be processed faster."

RCMP officials have said the three facilities will be closed one at a time to ensure the least amount of disruption. Equipment will be moved and roughly 70 scientists and technicians will be offered transfers.

Like many other government departments, the recent federal budget dealt a blow to the RCMP, cutting $192 million from the force's annual budget.

Martin Herschorn, the director of Public Prosecutions, said he's hoping for more consultation as details of the lab closure are worked out.

"A consultative approach. We did not get consulted, as I mentioned, prior to the announcement," he told CBC News.

"We hope to have that consultation so we can identify issues and work towards solutions."