A Lab Apart
The new Houston Forensic Science Center
has created a source for forensic services independent of law enforcement.
Take a closer look at the process.
Following the National Academy of Science report in 2009 recommending that labs be pulled out of the
police departments, and the well publicized problems with the Houston Police Department Crime Lab in
2002-4, the City of Houston created the Houston Forensic Science Center (HFSC) to provide forensic
science services to Houston and the surrounding region.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker made the decision to create an independent lab in 2012. A transition
committee worked for several years to lay the groundwork for the transition, which became official on
April 3, 2014 when the independent organization was established and officially took over management
of what had previously been the Houston Police Department’s Crime Lab and parts of its Identification
The HFSC now provides firearms, controlled substance, forensic biology, latent prints, digital forensics,
crime scene, toxicology, and forensic audio/video services to the Houston Police Department, other law
enforcement organizations, and others engaged in the justice system.
Dan Garner, CEO and President of the Houston Forensic Science Center, helped us to understand what
was involved in the transition from a police department run crime lab to an independent forensic science
Forensic Magazine: What were the biggest changes necessitated by the transition to an independent lab?
Dan Garner: There were significant cultural changes and physical changes involved with the transition. The physical changes included separating and securing space for the Houston Forensic Science Center from HPD, as well as separating networks and systems, etc. The cultural changes, which are ongoing,
include thinking in terms of serving HPD, prosecutors, and the defense bar as equal customers. We are not
on anyone’s team. So HFSC is now a science and technology-based company, not a component of a law
enforcement organization. This cultural transition will take time to complete.
FM: What was the process used to transition to the new administration?
DG: Mayor Annise Parker had City of Houston attorneys draft incorporation papers for a Local
Government Corporation under Texas law. She appointed an initial board of directors with City Council
approval. The Board then recruited and hired the CEO who then staffed up a corporate staff to manage
the forensic operations.
Our bylaws and the interlocal agreement that made this all possible can be viewed on our Web site:
FM: Has the transition necessitated any changes in workflow or operating procedures in the lab?
DG: Yes. For example, in the fingerprints division we have transitioned from using an outside contractor doing the identification to completing the work in house. In addition, procedures for working cases
from non-HPD sources had to be established and integrating workflow between sections had to be revised.
HFSC has also obtained international accreditation under FQS ISO/IEC 17025:2005 and FBI QAS (
Federal Bureau of Investigation Quality Assurance Standards).