OTTAWA - The Mounties will close three of their six forensic labs and consolidate services in those remaining.
The operations in Regina, Winnipeg and Halifax will close and their work will be handled in Vancouver, Edmonton and Ottawa, an RCMP spokeswoman said in a statement Friday.
Sgt. Julie Gagnon said the change will save about $3.5 million a year. It will also improve efficiency, eliminate redundancy and reduce infrastructure costs, while maintaining services, she said.
"The consolidation will enable the RCMP to more effectively deliver quality and timely forensic services to its police and provincial clients," said the release.
"The RCMP will continue to offer laboratory services in biology, toxicology, trace evidence, national anti-counterfeiting and firearms and toolmark identification."
The RCMP handles forensics for much of the country, though Ontario and Quebec have their own crime labs.
The federal government has been reviewing the future of the RCMP labs since the fall of 2010, when it issued a tender for a study on the best model to deliver forensic services.
At the time, it was suggested the government was even considering privatizing the services.
The studies eventually produced the consolidation plan, Gagnon said.
"The laboratory consolidation proposal was based on several studies conducted, some of which indicated that the current six-site model was not efficient."
The laboratories are Canada's equivalents to the crime labs popularized on the various CSI TV shows. Their technicians identify DNA and fingerprints, scrutinize trace evidence and analyze firearms and bullets.
These services have become more important to zeroing in on criminals as well as exonerating the innocent.
The last shakeup in the system came in 2006, when the Mounties merged the forensic branch with information and identification services.
But the RCMP labs were criticized in a 2007 auditor general's report.
The audit found the service did not meet its own turn-around targets for completing requests.
The report said that while the forensic service could process urgent requests in less than 15 days, they accounted for only one per cent of all demands. For the remaining 99 per cent, categorized as routine, the laboratory service was generally unable to meet the 30-day target set for them.
And although the labs had a national quality management system in place, the audit found "significant weaknesses" in how the service handled quality issues.