A national accreditation board that oversees forensic laboratories has ordered the District to suspend in-house DNA testing at its crime lab following completion of an audit that found staff lacked training and were using inadequate procedures.
The audit completed by the ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board was troubling to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who noted that the Department of Forensic Sciences is part of a new 351,000-square-foot facility that opened in 2012.
“District residents spent $200 million to build a state-of-the-art facility and expect its work to be beyond reproach,” she said Monday in a statement.
Officials are reviewing DNA analysis performed by the department using the protocols in question to determine whether any errors were made in previous cases. The problems documented in the audit center on testing of DNA “mixtures” that comes from more than one person.
Ms. Bowser requested the audit by the accreditation board to provide a third-party review after concerns about the DNA analysis were raised by prosecutors.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office, which stopped using the department’s DNA analysis in January after it found errors in some of the forensic lab’s DNA work, has already reviewed dozens of cases said no cases have been dismissed as a result of the DNA analysis performed, according to spokesman Bill Miller.
Federal prosecutors are instead outsourcing its DNA analysis to Verdugo Regional Crime Laboratory in Glendale, California, and Bode Technologies in Lorton, Virginia. Mr. Miller said 182 cases have been outsourced to laboratories for review at a cost of “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
“The Office has already reviewed dozens of cases involving DNA analysis performed by DFS and will continue to review past cases to ensure the integrity of our prosecutions,” Mr. Miller said in a statement.
He noted that prosecutors have disclosed their reviews with defense attorneys in each case reviewed.
The audit found that the lab was not following FBI standards and that lab analysts “used procedures for the interpretation of DNA data that were insufficient or inadequate.”
It ordered the lab make changes in the next 30 days to retrain staff and evaluate staff for competency of DNA testing procedures, creating new guidelines for DNA mixture cases, and revalidating test procedures among other steps.
Forensic department spokesman Keith St. Clair said Monday that the agency is taking the findings of the audit seriously.
“We will develop a corrective action plan and work with all DFS stakeholders to ensure our practices and procedures meet the highest standards,” Mr. St. Clair said.