The author of this budget cut is Council VP Lori Vargo-Heffner. She's concerned with "continuing bi-county ventures" and noted the county just built a "beautiful forensic center." She complained that municipalities who take advantage of the RIIC make no contributions. Kevin Lott added that he'd like to see the increase justified, and John Cusick suggested the DA could pay for it out of the drug forfeiture fund.
The RIIC has an annual budget of about $1.6 million, and Houck noted Lehigh County already pays the "lion's share" of the expense.
The RIIC is primarily a source of intelligence. It is a mega data base from which investigators can review incident reports, investigations and data from numerous local, state and federal agencies. It uses this intelligence to solve crimes.
The newly constructed forensic center performs a completely different role than the RIIC. In addition to being a place to store human remains, it has the capacity to perform digital forensic tests that can help solve crime. It plays no role in gathering or disseminating intelligence.
|DA Terry Houck|
Kerry Myers, who sponsored several forums on police community relations, said that the RIIC is needed especially for impoverished communities who feel the impact of crime more severely than those who live in more well-to-do areas. "He needs this to fight crime in my community," noted Myers. "They may not all be property owners, but they're innocent people."
Though Houck explained that increased technology justifies the increased contribution, Lott continued to complain about the increased cost.
"How much money is a life worth?" asked Kerry Myers.
For five members of County Council, the answer appears to be $50,000.
Council has one last chance to visit this on Thursday night. If they make this cut, they are opting to be woke at the expense of making you less safe. You see, this is certainly bad government. But it's also incredibly stupid politics in a county that Biden barely won. Vargo-Heffner and McGee are up for re-election, and can explain to you next year why they bailed out on your safety.
McGee was even tempted to deny Houck's request for an additional investigator, something in which Council really has no say. The District Attorney is an independently elected official, and has the right to hire as he sees fit. That's a principle that Houck's predecessor, John Morganelli, successfully established in Court.