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Audit Reporting Forces SF Crime Lab to Close

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By Kamika Dunlap on April 05, 2010 1:00 PM

The San Francisco Police Department crime lab has been forced to close indefinitely after audit reporting concluded that there were too many cases per analyst.

According to the audit report, the crime lab had been "sacrificing quality for quantity" and that employees needed to adhere more closely to the industry's average annual caseload per worker, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The lab's drug technicians were handling anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000 cases compared to the industry's average of 1,053 cases a year. Audit reporting also found that the 48-hour turnaround time for drug cases added to the lab's "untenable" caseload.

In scrambling to keep up with the fast pace, the crime laboratory abandoned sound practices, the audit concluded.

As previously discussed, the audit was complied after Deborah Madden, 60, a retired lab technician was accused of tampering and stealing drugs from the SF crime lab.

Prosecutors say they are dropping an estimated 1,000 drug cases due to a scandal involving the police crime lab. That will be in addition to the 500 narcotics cases have already been dismissed.

The closure of the S.F. crime lab means that drug cases will be sent out for testing to regional labs, which could cost anywhere between $75 to $125 a pop.

San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon said he is determined to fix the crime lab's problems. There are plans to implement the audit's recommendations but Gascon gave no estimated date for when that would be.

The chief requested the audit and ordered the drug-analysis section closed in response to Madden's reported drug problems.

Increase the staff to cut down on the 5,000 to 7,000 cases processed by each worker each year.

Here are a few recommendations from the report:

  • Seal the baggie or container holding the drug evidence and put one's initials across the seal to protect it from tampering.
  • Use of a secure central storage area or cabinet rather than keeping outgoing drug evidence in unsecured cardboard boxes on the floor
  • Increase the staff to cut down on the 5,000 to 7,000 cases processed by each worker each year

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