Allegations against APD crime lab to be analyzed

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Representatives of the Texas Department of Public Safety released a review of the Austin Police Department’s crime lab, challenging allegations made against the lab by a former employee.

Former employee Debra Stephens accused the lab of performing improper analysis of evidence in a letter sent to the Travis County district attorney Dec. 27. APD forensic services manager Bill Gibbens said Stephens claimed employees at the lab had issued preliminary reports without performing the necessary tests to support their claims. The review released by the DPS may clear the lab of Stephens’ allegations.

“[Her allegations were] that the lab was not performing analysis on drug cases to back up the preliminary results being issued,” Gibbens said.

He said representatives of both APD and the Department of Public Safety looked into the case and released their findings in separate reports.

“APD has put together a response and forwarded it to American Society of Crime Lab Directors and the Laboratory Accreditation Bureau and the Forensic Science Commission,” Gibbens said. “DPS did look into the complaint and issued a report. ASCLD/LAB and the Forensic Science Commission are still reviewing the DPS report and determining what their next steps will be. The Commission will take the matter to committee on March 2, 2012.”

Two weeks ago, Integrated Forensic Laboratories in Euless, an independent lab located in North Texas, filed a complaint against the APD crime lab.

“The independent lab did not agree with our lab’s reported findings,” Gibbens said. “We have also prepared a response on this complaint for ASCLD/LAB and the Commission and are awaiting further instructions [and] a decision from them.”

In 2009, separate allegations were made against a different department of the lab by another former employee, Cecily Hamilton, and the charges have been cleared since.