The Los Angeles Police Department says in a confidential report that people have been falsely implicated in crimes because the department’s fingerprint experts wrongly identified them as suspects. The 10-page internal report, obtained by the city’s Times, highlighted two cases in which criminal defendants had charges against them dropped after problems with the fingerprint analysis were exposed. LAPD officials says they do not know how many other people might have been wrongly accused as a result of poor fingerprint analysis and do not have the funds to pay for a comprehensive audit to find out.
The two cases were used by investigators to illustrate broader problems with shoddy work and poor oversight that have plagued the department’s Latent Print Unit. Rhonda Sims-Lewis, chief of the LAPD’s administrative and technical bureau, acknowledged the findings, but said changes to the unit’s leadership and protocols were made last year after senior officials became aware of problems. Internal discipline investigations led to the firing of one fingerprint analyst, who had been involved in both of the mishandled cases. Three other analysts received suspensions, Sims-Lewis said. In addition, two supervisors responsible for overseeing the unit were replaced, staff was bolstered and oversight tightened, she said.