Statement on Crime Lab Employee Relieved of Duty
August 7, 2007 - On August 3, 2007, James K. Carpenter, a Criminalist in the Houston Police Department Crime Lab, was relieved of duty and placed on an at-home status. His failure to properly secure controlled substance evidence has caused an investigation by the department’s Internal Affairs Division to be initiated. The Harris County District Attorney’s office has been notified as has ASCLD-LAB (American Society of Crime Lab Directors-Laboratory Accreditation Board) which has granted the Crime Lab its accreditation.
Carpenter, who was hired in October of 2002, routinely worked in the Controlled Substances Section of the Crime Lab. He had been counseled recently about poor attendance which Carpenter attributed to a back problem. He was noted to have evidence at his work site that was not being handled in compliance with Lab protocols. The Internal Affairs Division was immediately called to the lab where Carpenter refused to give a formal statement and submit to a drug test. He was then immediately relieved of duty.
Crime Lab Director Irma Rios states that although there was no indication of improper behavior until last week, as a precaution all of Carpenter’s work for the last six months will be reviewed (Note: approximately 200 narcotics cases). This effort will be coordinated with the District Attorney’s office. Ms. Rios said, “While we obviously have to wait for the outcome of the investigation, this appears to be an isolated case of one employee not performing properly. My first line supervisors did their jobs in monitoring Mr. Carpenter’s attendance and performance, which is one of the checks and balances needed to guard against a potential problem.”
Chief Harold Hurtt emphasized the tremendous progress made by the Crime Lab during his tenure as Chief of Police and also sees this as an isolated incident. Chief Hurtt would also like to see an increase in the random drug testing of personnel who routinely encounter controlled substances as part of their investigations including the Crime Lab and the Narcotics and Vice Divisions. Chief Hurtt stated, “I am seeking an opinion from the City Attorney as to the legality of establishing a program under which employees assigned to those areas will be subject to mandatory random drug testing on a more frequent basis.”
For additional information, please contact the HPD Public Affairs Division at 713-308-3200.