HPD Response to Second Report by Independent Investigator
June 1, 2005 -- Recognizing
the importance that evidence plays in the determination of guilt
or innocence, the Houston Police Department is taking affirmative
steps in response to recent information released by the Independent
Investigator for the HPD Crime Laboratory and Property Room, Michael
R. Bromwich, as it relates to the crime lab and the issue of "drylabbing."
Executive Assistant Chief Martha Montalvo, who oversees management
in the crime lab, said Mr. Bromwich's report brought to light
issues that tended to cast a cloud of uncertainty over evidence
processing in the past by one current employee, Vipul H. Patel,
and one previous employee, James E. Price.
EAC Montalvo said that in June of 2000, the department
reviewed all 574 cases processed by Price as part of an internal
investigation but, for reasons unknown, the same was not done
relative to Patel. The two cases of evidence mishandling involving
Patel occurred in 1999. In order to ensure the integrity of the
crime lab, the Houston Police Department has relieved Patel of
any evidence analysis duties until a similar review can be conducted
on the cases he handled between 1999 and 2003 when quality control
measures were incorporated into the lab. This move is precautionary
and the police department has no reason to believe Patel is guilty
of any wrongdoing now or since his discipline for the prior conduct
identified by Mr. Bromwich. The review will look to see if proper
processing and analyses were conducted in accordance with established
procedures. Details of the review are being worked out.
Chief Hurtt stated, "This input from the
independent investigator is just what we expected when the investigator
was hired: honest findings identifying and revealing past problems,
and providing recommendations for corrective action."
It is important to remember that the Houston
Police Department detected and corrected these deficiencies when
they occurred and continues to cooperate fully with Mr. Bromwich
in his investigation of all issues associated with the crime lab.
We are pleased with his acknowledgment of that cooperation and
agree that his most current findings regarding "drylabbing"
appear to be isolated, and not at all representative of the work
of the controlled substances section or the crime lab as a whole.
"Our goal is to make the Houston Police Department crime
lab the best in the nation and our transparency, accreditation,
and cooperation are important steps in that direction," said
Chief Hurtt. Should further findings be made by Mr. Bromwich,
the Houston Police Department will move to take all appropriate
corrective measures. Chief Hurtt and the current administration
are committed to restoring and maintaining the public's trust
in all areas of the Houston Police Department.
For additional information, please
contact the HPD Public Affairs Division at 713-308-3200.