Dozens of Crime Reports Have Errors; Officer Reassigned

The discovery of mistakes in dozens of case reports has prompted the transfer of a crime scene investigator in the Houston Police Department.

The Houston Forensic Science Center announced the action Wednesday.

The state forensic oversight commission found that the crime scene investigator’s errors forced the correction of final case reports.

The officer’s cases since October 2015 were audited – and the Houston Forensic Science Center found:

-- 65 cases that had incomplete documentation.

--32 instances of additional administrative errors.

--Misplaced evidence in eight instances.

The affected cases included 26 homicides and five officer-involved shootings.

The officer has been moved to a patrol position within HPD, according to the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

The problems were found during an audit of 88 cases on which the investigator worked after a few issues were noted in a handful of cases, according to the HFSC said.

“HFSC has taken measures to address the mistakes made in these cases and to prevent similar errors going forward,” Dr. Peter Stout, HFSC’s CEO and president, said in a statement. “The crime scene unit is a focus of HFSC’s efforts to ensure high-quality science is conducted throughout the organization, and steps are being taken to retrain and increase the technical capabilities of the staff.”

Some of the steps are in response to an audit released last summer that found that HFSC should have at least two investigators responding to major crime scenes and should take more precautions to secure the integrity of the area.

HFSC said that in response to the audit -- and the more recent incidents in the crime scene unit -- it has hired six investigators, including supervisors, and plans to hire more.

Measures have been taken to better secure crime scenes, HFSC said. All personnel in the inner perimeter of the crime scene are required to wear gloves, shoe coverings and particle masks to protect the evidence and prevent contamination.

The inner perimeter of the scene is sectioned off with red crime-scene tape, in addition to yellow tape, which marks the crime scene boundary. The inner crime scene area is restricted to key personnel, primarily crime scene and homicide investigators, HFSC said.

“We will continue to work closely with HPD and other stakeholders to ensure this first step in the forensic process evidence collection is done scientifically and is of the highest quality to help ensure the integrity of all subsequent forensic analysis,” Stout said.

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office said it is notifying defense lawyers that a crime scene investigator made errors dating back to October 2015.

Prosecutors are sending notifications about the findings and the name of the officer to lawyers in each case involved, the DA's office said.

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