Toxicology Supervisor Scott Larson will become the next director of the Montana State Crime Lab after longtime leader Phil Kinsey leaves later this month.

Attorney General Tim Fox announced the appointment Tuesday afternoon in a news release and on Twitter. Sheriffs, coroners, county attorneys and other members of the criminal justice community who rely on the lab for forensic analyses were notified in a letter last Wednesday. Larson will take over Saturday, Aug. 12, the day after Kinsey leaves.

“This transition period will allow us time to make sure lab services will continue uninterrupted and in the same spirit of improvements and efficiencies,” Fox wrote in the letter.

Larson, a board-certified toxicologist, earned his bachelor’s of science degree from the University of Montana in 1999 and went on to earn a master’s in pharmacology in 2005. He started at the Missoula-based state crime lab as a graduate student intern and was hired to lead the toxicology section about four years ago. He previously had worked as a toxicologist in the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System in Maryland and as the deputy chief Toxicologist for Washington, D.C.

“Scott (Larson)’s supervisory role in the Lab has played a big part in the improvement of its toxicology testing turn-around times,” Fox said in a written statement. 

Larson said Tuesday that he hopes to build upon the improvements secured by Kinsey at the crime lab that provides forensic analysis and autopsy services to law enforcement statewide.

Over the past several years, the lab has struggled with turnover, months-long testing times, tensions with county coroners about fees and quality of service, and an employee who stole narcotics from the evidence room. The lab has seen successes, too: securing tough-to-get international accreditation, cross- training its staff to avoid backlogs, helping to coordinate testing for a statewide backlog of untested rape kits, and restructuring the medical examiners office to clarify chain of command as well as to improve service to rural, eastern Montana communities. Recently, the lab became the 26th in the country to earn accreditation for its breath alcohol testing.

“Something Phil Kinsey really instilled in me is creating efficiency in the testing processes and monitoring the metrics of our performance to be as efficient as we can with the resources we have,” Larson said.

He will be paid an annual base salary of $99,486.40. Kinsey was paid the same base rate, but collected $102,960 in his final year with the lab because of longevity pay, said Fox Spokesman Eric Sell.