This morning, Section 6, Councilor Charles Allen conducted a supervisory hearing for DC’s troubled Department of Forensic Medicine. The agency was stripped of its accreditation after violent reports of dirty evidence tests and attempts to hide it. The Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, chaired by Allen, discussed with the new director of the laboratory, interim director Anthony Crispino, about its goal of getting its accreditation back.
First a little background: The National Board of Forensic Medicine, ANSI National Accreditation Board, first issued a suspension in April and then eventually revoked the DC Laboratory’s accreditation in May. It all started after a report found that the laboratory’s ballistic unit mistakenly linked two homicide cases from 2015 to the same gun. Then reports show that managers tried to cover up and minimize the errors. ANAB said in an April letter obtained by the WTOP that there was “credible evidence” to remove its laboratory accreditation over the “fraudulent conduct.”
Since the Crime Laboratory lost its accreditation, there has been one bad headline after another:
The laboratory continues to process evidence, but the work is contracted to other laboratories. Now, with new leadership, DFS wants to bring its testing back into the house.
Under the microscope
Interim Director Crispino this morning provided updates to Councilor Allen on the changes to the agency as they aim for recertification. He said there was no danger to public health and safety in this process. Crispino also said the forensic analysis firm SNA International is conducting an independent audit to help bring DC’s crime lab to the best of its ability to get its credentials back and ensure that such a thing does not happen again.
“If you do not identify the root cause or multiple root causes, they will remain baked in the cake we produce,” Crispino said. “But they do not stop there. They also look for whether there were other issues that may have been below the surface or have not been highlighted. ”
Crispino says a report on the audit findings will be published by November. He projects that it will largely be “accessible in its entirety” with limited editorial staff. He also plans to hire someone with expertise in “assessing the integrity of beliefs” to lead a team tasked with developing new protocols to address the report’s findings.
This will all start the process of getting its accreditation back, but one entity must not join the rest of the DFS in its reintroduction.
Do you remember the firearms unit that experienced a reduction in force last month? Crispino said that is because it will probably take at least a year (which he said is a “conservative” estimate) to get the firearms investigation unit ready for re-crediting. Skills also play a role. Firearms testing is more difficult than anything like medication or DNA testing, Crispino said.
“If you have seized drugs, these drugs will be put into a machine that will degrade the contents of the sample to a scientific degree of safety,” he said. “Firearms involve a study of tool marks on metal. You look at impressions or scratches on a piece of shell. Comparative work is not something you just get a degree for. ”
He said the DFS is likely to apply for firearms accreditation separately from all the other entities that need a “minor degree of work” when it comes to necessary corrections. While the report’s expected release is still over a month away, Crispino said they are already identifying ways to remedy the agency’s shortcomings.
“We are not hitting the ground in stagnation, we are actually already in a run towards the re-accreditation process,” he said.
–Bailey Vogt (tips? email@example.com)
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By Ambar Castillo and Bailey Vogt (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com)