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Houston's Police Chief Responds to Crime Lab Issues Raised by State Legislators

January 24, 2005 -- The following is Chief Harold L. Hurtt's official position concerning the letter faxed to Mayor Bill White dated January 24, 2005, from Senator John Whitmire, Senator Tommy Williams, and statements made by Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst regarding the HPD Crime Lab. The senators strongly encourage that the City request assistance from the Texas Rangers to oversee this review in our processing of the 280 boxes of crime scene material.

After reading communications from the Senators and Lieutenant Governor
Dewhurst, we understand they want us to employ an independent overseer from
the Department of Public Safety for Project 280 and explore the concept of
regional crime labs. We welcome this offer of state assistance. We welcome
someone with credibility to work shoulder to shoulder with our project team.
In furtherance of this recommendation, an oral request was made today of
Colonel Thomas A. Davis, Jr., Director, Texas Department of Public Safety, to
provide an overseer from the Texas Department of Public Safety for the
duration of Project 280. A formal request will follow.

I raised the possibility of State assistance in the early stages of this
project, and I suggested months ago that regional DNA labs be established and
managed by the State. I still believe regional DNA Labs to be a good concept
subject to statewide regulatory authority; however, as a practical matter, we
recognize that the state DNA Lab currently has a six-month backlog of cases.
With our workload, our DNA processing demand could possibly create a one-year
backlog for Houston cases. Nevertheless, we will be happy to explore the idea
of a fair funding process for a Regional DNA lab.

We want to regain the confidence of the senate, community, and Criminal
Justice System. We have not remained stagnant regarding this issue. We are
approximately 75% complete with categorizing evidence associated with Project
280. We are also well on the way to accreditation of our crime lab, with the
exception of only the DNA section. We all can agree that we must have
accurate and prompt investigations so that crime victims receive justice, and
we are working with the District Attorney's Office concerning any death
penalty cases that might be affected.

For additional information, please contact the HPD Public Affairs Division at 713-308-3200.