Monday, August 01, 2011

Paycheck vs. Integrity: Houston PD lab supervisor resigns over faulty breathalyzers, feared retaliation

Yet another bombshell out of the Houston crime lab, as reported over the weekend in the Houston Chronicle ("HPD crime lab faces more heat," July 29), this time regarding breath-alcohol tests. The story opens:
Under intense scrutiny for shoddy work during the past decade, the Houston Police Department crime lab faced renewed criticism Thursday when a former HPD lab supervisor dropped a bombshell, testifying she quit because she could not trust the accuracy of breath alcohol tests from the department's testing vans.

Amanda Culbertson said electrical problems including overheating in HPD's six breath alcohol testing vans were well-documented before she and another supervisor quit. The vans are used as satellite offices for Houston police officers to give breath tests to suspected drunk drivers.

"We could no longer choose between a paycheck and our integrity," Culbertson said during a hearing in a DWI case in court-at-law judge Pam Derbyshire's court.

Culbertson, who resigned in May, said she and another supervisor quit because they could not trust the integrity of the results they use to prosecute cases.

Culbertson testified they feared retaliation from Irma Rios, HPD's crime lab director, for disciplining officers and civilian technicians who did not follow strict rules to keep breath-test machines from overheating and measuring alcohol levels inaccurately.

Rios did not respond to calls for comment. The revelations from Culbertson follow recent reports by the Houston Chronicle about thousands of rape kits sitting untested in the HPD property room.


Texas Maverick said...

The one thing I saw at the various committee hearings this last lege was the frequency of Houston's finest in criminal justice testifying,usually in favor of enhancements. The more I read I wonder if they are using their legislators to try and fix the shoddy ways the offices are run instead of raising local taxes and getting rid of incompetency. Harsher laws for the entire state because Houston can't clean up it's own act? Time to say no to Huffman and Patrick and tell them to stay at home if they want to change things.

Soronel Haetir said...

If true I would say this is a much bigger deal than the evidence kits. The evidence kits still exist, and more than likely can still be tested have have whatever useful information is present extracted. Here the evidence is simply gone, not only gone but no doubt already used in many cases.

Ted said...

This story goes to show that you can fool all the people some of the time, some of the people all the time, but not all the people all the time- hats off to a public employee- involved in prosecuting some of society's most vicious offenders-(that was a joke- bet her supervisor has driven after one too many) who has the temerity to stand up and shout that the emperor has no clothes- its so interesting, the legislature punishes a first as a class b- for now- and yet this infraction generates massive amounts of both light- and heat- and has as many constitutional implications as any crime in the Penal Code-and again, shows the utter lack of respect for the law on the part of those charged with enforcing the law

The Homeless Cowboy said...

C'Mon Ted, now how unamerican is that??
These folks are responsible for for enforcing the law round her and I cant believe anyone would doubt the level of committment these fine officers show on a daiy basis. I mean really do you think for one minute they would arrest someone for something they had no part in? Not likely, If they arrest somebody they did it or probly somethin just as bad anyway. An furthermore we aint in the business of lettin emperors or queens or anybody else run around with no clothes, maybe you outta call the Po-Lice. For Petes Sake what's this world comin to when a respected member of law enforcement gets questioned by some by some plain ole citizen for simply doin their job as they see fit. Land Sakes I dont know why they put up with it.

Don said...

Methinks Homeless Cowboy will have to have his tongue surgically removed from his cheek. :)

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Hey Grits, do you happen to know if this Irma Rios worked at the TBP&P in the Clemency Section? Thanks.