The San Francisco Police Department will keep its scandal-tainted drug analysis unit closed indefinitely after an outside audit concluded that the lab had been “sacrificing quality for quantity” to deal with an “untenable” workload, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The report, compiled by the state Department of Justice’s auditor and the head of the Sacramento County district attorney’s crime lab, said sound practices in the drug analysis section of the lab were “repeatedly short-changed” so overburdened employees could keep up with the caseload.
“It’s really important to understand that the finger doesn’t need to go anywhere else,” said Police Chief George Gascón. “The problems were in the lab, it was under our control, and we will fix them.” The outside auditors found that lab analysts left narcotics in unsecured cardboard boxes on the floor or in lockers to which all employees had keys. There was no strictly enforced requirement that technicians record instances in which they reopened sealed samples of drug evidence, the audit said. One analyst is suspected of having reopened samples that included powdered cocaine and the painkiller Oxycontin and stolen some of the drugs. “Evidence tampering could have been prevented had good laboratory practices been in place and practiced,” the audit said. Plastic bags of evidence could easily have been taped or heat-sealed to guard against such tampering, it said. Instead, they were closed with a zip-lock method.