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HPD Responds to Independent Investigator's Fourth Report

January 4, 2006 -- The Houston Police Department has taken action to deal with past problems reported in a new phase of an independent investigator's inquiry into the HPD Crime Lab. That action includes an investigation into allegations that analysts failed to report possible exculpatory DNA results in one capital murder case.

The Department continues to work with the Harris County District Attorney's
Office on this matter. Three employees identified in the report have been relieved of duty pending the outcome of an internal investigation. They are Mary Childs-Henry, Joseph H. Chu, and Raynard Cockrell. In addition, other cases highlighted involving serology during the late 1980s have resulted in an expansion of the audit period to include the years 1980 through 2002. This decision was made jointly by members of the Crime Lab Recovery Stakeholder Committee and the independent investigator.

Most of the issues identified in the independent investigator's fourth report, issued this week, focus on work previously done and are not a sign of current practice. "We are using the report to confirm that the changes made within the Crime Lab over the last two years were correct," said Chief Hurtt. Examples include:

* Hiring a strong management team to oversee the DNA operations of the lab.

* Establishing a comprehensive quality assurance program for the entire lab.

* Revising policies and procedures to ensure accurate reporting.

* Completing external audits in preparation for ASCLD/LAB accreditation of the DNA section.

"Although I am disappointed in what has been described as a general breakdown in the serology and DNA sections in the past, I am encouraged by the competent and high-quality work detected in the Toxicology, Firearms, and Questioned Documents sections by the independent investigator," said Chief Hurtt. "We have been and will continue to work to improve the serology and DNA sections."

The Houston Police Department is aware that specific recommendations will be forthcoming from the independent investigator. "Identifying past deficiencies is important," said Chief Hurtt. "But also important are recommendations that will make the Houston Police Crime Lab the best in the nation. Our recent accreditation by the ASCLD/LAB in the operational areas of the lab is a step in the right direction."

"We're also proud that all of the reports by the independent investigator have highlighted the broad cooperation by the Houston Police Department. We will continue to work with him, and we will mend the problems identified," said Chief Hurtt. It has always been Chief Hurtt's goal to establish and maintain honesty and transparency in all of the Department's operations.

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