Statement on Release of Latent Fingerprint Lab Audits

December 8, 2009 - In response to the recent auditing of the Houston Police Department Latent Fingerprint Lab, the Houston Police Department is conducting an ongoing internal investigation to determine what violations of administrative policies or criminal laws, if any, may have occurred in the evaluation of fingerprint evidence by Lab employees. The auditing process, conducted on behalf of the Police Department by Ron Smith and Associates, is reflected in two documents - one dated September 10, 2009 and the other dated October 20, 2009. Because the Police Department remained open to the possibility of actual criminal activity, in addition to procedural administrative violations, the department initially withheld the audits from public release to avoid any potential hindrance or negative effects on the pending investigation.

The Police Department did receive requests for a copy of the audits from multiple parties including various Council Members and media outlets. Those requests were taken under consideration because of the potentially criminal nature of the conduct being investigated. However, Chief Hurtt, along with key command staff members, has conducted an expedited review of the audits to determine if the audits could be released without interfering with a criminal investigation. Chief Hurtt said, “This Department and I wanted to be as transparent as reasonably possible while still protecting the integrity of an investigation where there was a possibility that the investigation would reveal criminal activity. Depending on what the ongoing investigation brings to light, we will remain open to the possibility that criminal acts may have taken place; however, at this time I have concluded that a release of the audits conducted by Ron Smith & Associates will not hinder the ongoing investigation. Therefore, I am authorizing the release of the audits.”

The Department is committed to resolving this critical matter as soon as possible and will continue to work with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office in reviewing the case.

The audits are available at http://www.houstontx.gov/police/audit/AuditLatentPrint.pdf

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

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