Mark Thompson

Mark Thompson
Assistant County Administrator
Department of Public Safety
Hennepin County, Minnesota


Hennepin County’s old drug tests (gas chromatography-mass spectrometry) were creating a backlog of cases that delayed or increased the number of court hearings required while waiting for test results, often leaving presumptively innocent defendants languishing in jail.


The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) proposed a two-year pilot project with Hennepin County to validate microcrystal (MC) testing to improve turnaround time of test results.  

MC testing, already used successfully in some labs in California, is said to be 98.9% accurate with no false-positives discovered to date, less expensive, and able to provide results within a few days versus the GC-MS tests, which take 30-90 days.

The impact of delays was counterproductive to the ends of the justice system. Defendants lost their jobs as they sat in jail, Mark says, leaving their families with no source of income. College kids picked up with small amounts of drugs could miss a semester of school while they waited for their drug tests to come back from the lab.

Using the MC test, the BCA can now produce test results within the 28 days required by State law to hold a pre-trial hearing. Mark says the county’s backlog of cases has been reduced from 700 at the beginning of 2016 all the way to…zero.

Mark’s Background

Grew up north of Minneapolis in Robbinsdale, got bachelor’s in public administration from University of Minnesota and master’s in public administration from University of Texas. Bikes about 200 miles a week, and tries to eat plenty of old-fashioned glazed donuts to make up for it.

Mark’s Job

Coordinates the activities of different county agencies and oversees the probation department, which has 1,000 employees.

Startling Fact

“I probably drive too fast,” Mark says, referencing cars and boats. “I like to go fast in places where they allow it.”

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