Director of Arkansas crime lab to retire at end of August

Former director will come out of retirement to serve as acting director
Kermit Channell (Arkansas State Crime Laboratory)

The director of the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory is retiring after 16 years on the job.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that Kermit Channell plans to retire at the end of August. Officials said Monday that J.R. Howard, a former director of the crime lab, will come out of retirement to serve as acting director.

Channell’s career began 36 years ago when he joined the state Medical Examiner’s Office in 1987.

After a brief departure, he returned in 1990, working as a forensic serologist before he was chosen to create and lead the state’s first forensic DNA section in 1996.

Before Channell became director of the crime lab, he served for two years as the scientific operations director for the lab starting in 2005.

His departure comes at a challenging time, according to a consulting firm that has looked at the lab operation.

The facility in west Little Rock is at capacity, with no practical options for on-site renovation or expansion, according to the Smith Group.

“The building as its exists today is continuously affected by outdated mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, inadequate structural capabilities and inflexible spaces,” the Smith Group said.