The San Francisco Police Department will close its scandal-marred drug lab permanently and use outside testers to analyze narcotics evidence, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. “We have determined that we would be better served” by having independent laboratories test seized substances to determine if they are drugs, said Police Chief George Gascón. That will enable the police crime lab to focus on testing of weapons and DNA evidence, areas that are “quite frankly of greater importance to our crime-fighting efforts,” Gascón said.
The department shut down the drug analysis section of the crime lab March 9 amid an investigation into whether now-retired technician Deborah Madden skimmed powdered cocaine and OxyContin evidence. Prosecutors have dismissed more than 600 drug cases since the scandal broke. Madden, 60, has not been charged with a crime in connection with the case, but a police investigation is under way. The chief said an outside lab can perform testing for about $100 per sample. By having police officers themselves do some preliminary tests in the field, Gascón believes that the 14,000 tests that the drug analysis section had performed annually can be cut to around 4,000 at outside labs.