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‘Incompetent’ DC Crime Lab To Cost Another $1 Million

Just three years after an expensive new forensics lab opened up in the District of Columbia, the city will now be forced to seek help from an outside laboratory.

A national accreditation board shut down operations at the District’s Department of Forensic Sciences crime lab April 24. This sent district officials searching for a new lab to conduct the city’s DNA testing, and it’s not going to be cheap, the Washington Post reports.

It will likely cost taxpayers an additional $1 million to review old cases and handle new cases while the district’s in-house crime lab sorts out new operating procedures, two unnamed officials told Keith L. Alexander of the Washington Post. It is unknown how long that will take, though an audit ordered by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser requires the lab to correct its errors within 30 days.

The quest for outside help stems from duel audits published last week, one ordered by the mayor and one by the U.S. attorney’s office, that found the lab’s testing procedures to be “insufficient and inadequate.”

Hundreds of criminal cases could be affected because of issues with the lab’s DNA mixture interpretation protocols, which the audit said did not comply with Federal Bureau of Investigation standards. To comply with the standards, the lab will need to revalidate its testing procedures and guidelines and add new competency training for staff members.

According to a statement from Bowser, the city will oversee the review of all management and training protocols at the agency.

“I am troubled by the longstanding issues at DFS as identified in the audits,” she said. “District residents spent $200 million to build a state-of-the-art facility and expect its work to be beyond reproach.”

Interpretation errors have been found in at least six different cases so far, though any cases involving evidence analyzed at the tainted lab could be affected, including murders and sexual assaults.

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