DC lawmakers introduce bill to overhaul crime lab

The D.C. Council introduced a bill to overhaul the city’s crime lab, more than a year after the facility lost accreditation and with it, the ability to process firearms, DNA and fingerprint evidence from crime scenes.

The Restoring Trust and Credibility to Forensic Sciences Amendment Act of 2022 was introduced by Councilman Charles Allen Thursday with the support of eight other council members.

Provisions in the bill include renaming the D.C. Department of Forensic Sciences to the Forensic Sciences and Public Health Lab, and addressing the underlying reasons why the lab lost accreditation last year.

The bill works off of feedback from multiple hearings, an independent audit and from agencies that rely on the lab’s work — such as the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender Service.

The lab’s previous management is under criminal investigation for allegations they tried to cover up mistakes that may have altered the course of justice. Prosecutors are currently reviewing hundreds of convictions and open cases that could be affected.

Allen, who also chairs the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, said in a statement troubles with the lab have caused severe damage to justice in the District.

“It’s hard to overstate the harm that the collapse of the District’s Department of Forensic Sciences has caused to the District’s criminal justice system,” he said. “The ripple effects are massive and will take years to fix.”

Along with making the lab independent from the executive, the legislation would create greater transparency of quality control processes; change the qualifications of its director to have a management focus; and require members of its internal oversight board have technical and quality assurance backgrounds.

“What I am proposing makes significant changes to the structure and operations of the Department to restore trust in its work and get it back on track, as well as completely reforming how complaints and allegations of misconduct or testing errors get addressed,” Allen said.

“We can never lose sight of the end goal of an independent and transparent forensic lab that evaluates evidence fairly and ensures defendants and victims benefit from unbiased science.”

Megan Cloherty

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

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