On June 24, the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors Laboratory Accreditation Board, or ASCLD/LAB, placed the department's crime lab on probation after an audit "raised serious concerns about the preparedness of personnel," according to a letter sent to the department by ASCLD/LAB Executive Director Ralph Keaton.In particular, concerns were raised about the lab's competence to analyze illegal drugs other than marijuana. "Of the 385 laboratories accredited by [the national accrediting] agency, the El Paso lab and one in New York that is now closed are the only two under sanctions of any kind." The city manager says she wasn't informed of the alleged problems until the lab was put on probation.
The audit reviewed 122 cases in the past six months that dealt with controlled substances such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines. The Police Department's crime lab was accredited in 2006 for five years, and the lab was placed on probation during an audit to have the accreditation renewed.
Police officials said the lab is still accredited despite its probationary status, which will last until Sept. 2. On that date, board officials will review the progress police officials have made to remedy the problems.
"We want to put notices in every (criminal) file and keep the report on our website" for defense attorneys to review, Esparza said.
One wonders if this will end up being a topic the Forensic Science Commission takes on, depending on how things develop. I've requested a copy of the audit under the Public Information Act, so perhaps we'll know more soon.
MORE: See the full report (pdf).