Articles

State-of-the-Art Crime Lab Coming to Edmond, Okla.

The three-story building will house police headquarters, 911 communications and emergency management operations.

by Diana Baldwin, The Oklahoman / April 27, 2015

(TNS) — Edmond, Okla., crime lab technicians can’t wait to move into their modern lab being built near 33rd Street and Broadway.

The 15,000-square-foot building, which includes vehicle and evidence storage, is expected to be finished by August.

“It will be one of the finest in the central part of the country,” said Rockie Yardley, a crime lab technician. “Agencies twice our size wish they had a lab this size.”

Yardley, who has worked with the Edmond Police Department for 35 years, admits he is excited about the new crime lab.

“We are going to have a facility designed to be a police station,” Yardley said. “It is exciting to be in a professional building.”

The crime lab is cramped quarters at police headquarters on the northwest corner of First Street and Littler Avenue in a building that was never meant to be a police station.

The state-of-the-art laboratory, 2816 Technology Drive, is part of a $29 million public safety center complex which includes a 70,000-square-foot building on the southeast corner of First Street and Littler Avenue. The three-story building, with a 14-cell holding center in the basement, will be the home of police headquarters, the 911 communications and emergency management operations.

The new center will take care of the city’s needs for the next 25 years.

The new crime lab will give officers and civilian lab technicians room to work and store evidence. The building will be properly ventilated for the safety of people working inside.

“We have a lot of harmful odors — from anything from homicides to burglary to arson,” said Police Chief Bob Ricks on a recent tour of the building with Councilwoman Victoria Caldwell.

A special heating and air conditioning system with multiple high exhaust vents has been installed to help protect the environment and safety of the employees.

“The hoods pull the air away from the technician,” Thompson said. “There is not a day goes by that the police station...smells like marijuana.”

The latest model walk-in freezer with a built-in insulated floor replace a stand-alone freezer technicians now use at the old police station. Shelves have been installed along both sides and down the middle to store biological evidence.

“We will be able to store 25 times more evidence for long-term storage,” Yardley said.

If the temperature drops or rises, an alarm will sound at police headquarters in downtown Edmond.

The lab includes rooms where technicians will perform specific examinations. There are rooms to decontaminate the officers and a place to keep a police dog. Also included is a room large enough to spread out a bed sheet and look for evidence.

There is a two-bay garage area where two vehicles can be examined for evidence.

“We can lock the doors and no one will have access to this part of the building,” said Thompson, who has been assigned full time to monitor the construction project.

The crime lab has a conference room that is also a safe room for the people working in the building.

Thought even went into the flooring. Parts of the building have a Mondo cushioned floor, a softer, better product, said Kaylon Bates, project superintendent for the contractor, Timberlake Construction Co., Oklahoma City.

Once all is completed, 25 percent of the equipment in the crime lab will be new.

“We have so many more opportunities to handle evidence the way it should be,” said police Maj. Steve Thompson.

Plans are already in place to move all the evidence from downtown.

“There are boxes and boxes of evidence,” Ricks said. “There are guns, jewelry, and we must maintain the chain of command for the courts.”

For instance, evidence in the Jimmie Ray Slaughter murder case from July 2, 1991, takes up a large amount of space in the old evidence storage. Slaughter, who was convicted of killing Melody Wuertz, 29, and Jessica Rae Wuertz, 11 months, was executed in March 2005.

His execution attracted more media attention than most because of the brutality of the murders and his repeated claims that he was not responsible for the deaths of his former girlfriend and their baby.

Police officials had to get permission from the district attorney to destroy some of the evidence before they move to the new place.

“You have enough room to store especially sensitive stuff like rape kits and any murder type stuff as long as it needs to be under the circumstances,” Caldwell said. “I think it is exactly what we need.”

©2015 The Oklahoman. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.