San Francisco News
Gascon says crime lab troubles are over
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The San Francisco Police Department's investigation into its crime lab problems is over. Chief George Gascon has set new systems and policies designed to prevent the scandal from happening again.
Gascon shut down the crime lab after a criminalist stole cocaine evidence. Seven hundred seventy drug cases were dropped, cases the district attorney hopes to salvage through re-testing.
Friday, Gascon said new safeguards will prevent this from happening again.
"This has been a very thorough process, we have left no stone unturned," Gascon said.
Gascon says the crime lab will continue analyzing DNA and firearms evidence and that he will hire another supervisor and two more criminalists to help prevent backlogs.
Capt. David Lazar, who helped re-organize the lab, says there is already progress.
"There is no backlog in the homicide section or the sex assault section," Lazar said.
The department will continue farming out drug evidence to outside labs. Right now, it is outsourcing all of it to Alameda's crime lab, but Lazar says they are getting bids from other facilities as well.
"Since March of 2010, we have contracted out 1,889 cases for work and we average approximately 90 cases per week," Lazar said.
Much of the drug analysis is now done through what is called "presumptive testing" in the field by officers trained to analyze suspected narcotics.
Police officials credit the field testing for putting less of a burden on crime labs.
"Approximately 600 police officers in San Francisco have been trained in the use of presumptive testing," Lazar said.
Gascon also announced that for the first time in its history the department will now have a written policy that sets out how it will notify the district attorney's office to problem officers who are asked to testify in criminal cases.
The Police Officers Association says the protocols are fair to its members.
"It also assures the community that they're getting a high standard of police officers who are performing their duties on a day in and day out basis," POA spokesperson Kevin Martin said.
The state attorney general's office is reviewing the theft of drugs by criminalist Deborah Madden and whether she should be charged with a crime. A police source tells ABC7 there is a possibility that disciplinary charges may be brought against supervisors at the crime lab.
george gascon, SFPD, crime lab scandal, drugs, san francisco news, vic lee
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