DC mayor names new temporary head of troubled crime lab

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has named another temporary director for the District’s troubled crime lab.

In a news release Friday, Bower’s office said she has tasked Dr. Francisco Diaz, the District’s current chief medical examiner, with also serving as the interim director of the D.C. Department of Forensic Sciences.

Diaz, a former assistant medical examiner in Wayne County, Michigan, has served as D.C.’s chief medical examiner since 2021.

The move comes amid a controversial plan to shift the DFS crime scene unit to the D.C. police department — and just a month before the agency planned to apply to have its accreditation to perform forensic testing restored.

The agency lost its accreditation two years ago amid a probe into errors and mismanagement, which has halted the processing of DNA, fingerprints and firearms evidence in the District and forced the city to pay private labs to analyze evidence.

The leadership move was announced shortly before 5 p.m. Friday. Susana Castillo, Bowser’s spokeswoman, did not immediately respond to an email seeking more information about the appointment.

The former interim director, Anthony Crispino, had served as interim DFS director since May 2021 and had been overseeing efforts to restore the lab’s operations. As interim director, however, Crispino had served far longer than D.C. law allows, which limits temporary appointments to six months.

The circumstances of his departure from the agency were unclear. As of Friday evening, Crispino is still listed as the agency’s interim director on the DFS website.

Crispino told D.C. Council members in February the agency planned to apply for reaccreditation with the ANSI National Accreditation Board — specifically for the lab’s DNA and chemistry units — by late spring or in early summer.

Budget documents from the D.C. Council Judiciary and Public Safety Committee indicated the move to reapply for reaccreditation in June was on track.

Bowser proposed shifting the agency’s Crime Scene Sciences Division — as well as the equivalent of 81 full-time employees — back to the D.C. police department, which used to handle crime scene evidence collection before the creation of the District’s independent forensics lab.

In describing the motive for shifting the agency’s Crime Scene Sciences Division, the mayor’s office has said the move would allow DFS leadership to focus more squarely on getting reaccredited. However, the move has divided council members over fears moving evidence collection back under the auspices of the police department would weaken the lab’s role independent from law enforcement.

Council member Brooke Pinto, who chairs the Public Safety and Judiciary Committee, has said she supports shifting the crime scene unit to the police department — but only temporarily.

“While in the short term, capacity constraints and the Agency’s need to focus on reattaining accreditation is sufficient rationale to immediately transfer these divisions, the Committee believes before the move is made permanent, the Council should engage in a more robust, public-facing discussion on the merits of such a transfer of this division to MPD,” the committe’s draft budget proposal stated.

A Pinto spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the new temporary appointment.

Earlier this year, the Mayor’s Office of Talent and Appointments listed a job posting for the permanent director position.

The position’s salary range is $274,831 to $357,281.

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Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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