DC Mayor plans to name new director of embattled crime lab

D.C.’s mayor will soon name a new director for the city’s embattled crime lab.

It’s the first time the mayor has commented since her administration announced the Department of Forensic Sciences director would resign, and her last day came and went.

“I think there was some question of timing that was discussed last week that was not my timing,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said at a news conference Thursday.

It was the first acknowledgment by the mayor of the lack of clarity around Dr. Jenifer Smith’s employment status after WTOP’s multiple requests to her administration for information.

Last week, Deputy Mayor of Public Safety Chris Geldart issued a statement thanking Smith for her service, stating her last day would be Wednesday, May 26. During a staff call the following day, sources inside DFS told WTOP that Geldart said the mayor had not accepted Smith’s resignation.

Sources said Smith then showed up to work May 27, and things were “business as usual,” indicating she had no plans to step down.

Bowser was unwilling to say whether she’d accepted Smith’s resignation.

“I have an obligation to all of my staff to treat them fairly and that’s what I’m doing,” she said, calling it a personnel matter.

Bowser appointed Smith in 2015 to help the Department of Forensic Sciences navigate out of the loss of accreditation at its DNA lab. However, on May 2, under Smith’s leadership, the lab lost accreditation on a much larger scale — five departments can no longer process evidence per the D.C. charter that created the independent lab.

Its managers are under criminal investigation based on allegations they pressured employees to change findings and misled stakeholders following a ballistic analyst’s error.

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine and Council member Charles Allen have both called for new leadership at DFS. Bowser had previously expressed her support for Smith, but acknowledged that her tenure is coming to an end.

“We will shortly announce the next director of DFS,” Bowser said.

Bowser did not offer a timeline of when she’d announce a new director or say who is under consideration.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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