An audit of the DNA unit at the San Francisco Police Department’s crime lab found that it is running smoothly, but testing at the department’s embattled drug lab will continue to be farmed out to an outside facility, Chief George Gascon said today.
The audit by the state Department of Justice is its second of the crime lab in recent months. The audits were sparked by allegations that a former criminologist at the drug unit was taking cocaine from evidence. Gascon ordered drug testing at the lab temporarily halted on March 9.
An audit of the drug lab in late March found a number of problems including understaffing and excessive caseloads, improper evidence handling and shoddy record keeping.
The new audit found that the crime lab “is running well, as far as the DNA is concerned,” Gascon said at a news conference at police headquarters this morning.
“The integrity of the DNA section was deemed to be appropriate,” he said, adding that he was “very pleased” by the report.
The audit notes that the DNA lab is “well organized and professional, with an excellent training program and highly qualified staff,” adding that “the overall quality of the work and laboratory operations was very good.”
Auditors did find a few “minor documentation issues” and recommended that the lab hire more staff and obtain additional computers.
Gascon additionally announced, as part of a series of corrective actions in response to the lab scandal, that the Police Department would continue contracting out drug testing while looking for a permanent outside vendor to do the testing.
However, Gascon said the outside lab would remain “under our supervision.”
“We can give up the responsibility for the work to someone else, but we cannot give up the accountability,” he said.
Gascon also announced that the department would begin contracting out the approximately “year’s worth” of backlogged DNA cases it faces, in order to more quickly test evidence in homicides and sex assaults.
He said the Police Department also intends to hire more lab staff and explore relocating the “inadequate” crime lab facility within two to three years.