Friday, July 08, 2011

El Paso PD drug lab put on probation by accrediting agency

Accreditation for the El Paso crime lab has been put on probationary status after inspectors found "technicians were insufficiently trained and procedural errors had been committed," says AP. Reports the El Paso Times ("DA: Police crime lab suspension shouldn't taint cases," July 8):
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.

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.
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.

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).


  1. Good luck getting the Forensic Science Commission to do anything soon.

    Looks like they canceled another regular meeting.

    History repeats.

  2. "...raised serious concerns about the preparedness of personnel..."

    "...Quijano said he will examine any case that may have had evidence processed by the crime lab in the past six months and ask for a review..."

    Did the chemists suddenly become "unprepared" in just the past 6 months?
    Maybe the chemists were trained this way when they started working in the lab.
    The auditors need to check lab reports that go back much, much farther in time. They need to determine exactly how the chemists became "unprepared".

    "...District Attorney Jaime Esparza and County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal said on Thursday. They and Police Chief Greg Allen said they had no evidence that anybody in the lab intentionally did anything wrong. "Nobody's accusing us of being unethical or corrupt," said Deputy Police Chief Robert Feidner...

    Actually, it is unethical that no one from inside the lab reported these problems BEFORE the audit, as required by ASCLD/LAB accreditation standards. If lab personnel know of problems, they are required to report it...immediately.

    It always amazes me how DAs and Lab Directors downplay these audit findings.