Breaking New Ground?

Analyzing the potential for a public-private forensic science center in southeast Wisconsin

February 2017


Our latest research explores the concept of building a center of forensic and educational excellence in southeast Wisconsin. The recent convergence of several related endeavors led us to examine the potential benefits and challenges of developing a forensic science center in southeast Wisconsin:

  • The State of Wisconsin is planning to develop a new crime laboratory in the region.
  • Milwaukee County is seeking new facilities for its Medical Examiner (M.E.) and Office of Emergency Management (OEM).
  • The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) is seeking to enhance its program offerings and research capabilities.

Our research included in-depth interviews with leaders of nine forensic science centers that have been built in the U.S. and Canada since 2004, as well as the principal potential stakeholders in southeast Wisconsin. We cover a range of important issues, from facility construction to operations and staffing, and from financing to governance.

It is important to note that in September 2016, during the middle of our research, the State issued a request for proposals (RFP) to develop a new crime lab in southeast Wisconsin. Soon after, MCW decided to submit a proposal to develop a co-located facility for all three entities. At that point, we decided to wait to release our research findings publicly until after the State made its decision on the RFP so as not to appear to be endorsing one proposal over the others. In mid-February, MCW announced that its proposal had not been selected by the State, which prompted us to release our report. We believe this research continues to be relevant to the County’s ongoing deliberations about securing new facilities for the M.E. and OEM and a potential partnership with the Medical College.