The Austin Police Department’s DNA Lab is temporarily shutting down for at least several months after the Texas Forensic Science Commission raised concerns about a lack of properly trained supervision.
The decision means that hundreds of DNA samples will either be shipped to the Texas Department of Public Safety or private labs for analysis. It also means it could delay the outcome for pending cases in Travis County criminal courts.
APD has notified the organization that accredits DNA labs that it will cease operations, possibly until the end of 2016. Officials had already scaled back operations in the recent weeks.
The DNA section of the forensic center has been without a leader trained in up-to-date science. The overall operation is overseen by police commanders, and a civilian supervisor that previously held the position recently died.
The break will allow staff to learn a new federally required way to verify evidence. Police Chief Art Acevedo said, “We don’t believe there are any instances where an innocent person has been convicted or a guilty person has failed to be identified because of the procedures being used within the crime lab. Having said that, we have reached out to the Texas Forensic Science Commission and have been working with them for some time to ensure our lab not only follows proper procedures, but also standards adopted here in Texas and across the nation.”
The lab’s backlog of cases awaiting DNA analysis has risen to about 1,300, the most in the last five years.
WEB EXTRA: Full press conference with APD Chief Art Acevedo: