ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO/AP) — St. Paul’s Police Chief Thomas Smith is suspending all drug testing at his own crime lab until a complete review of their procedures is done.
“Of course, I know of the criticisms and shortcomings that have surfaced in the department’s crime lab regarding the testing of suspected controlled substances,” Smith said.
Problems with the lab’s drug testing procedures came to light this week after a nationally recognized forensics expert testified in a Dakota County court that the lab is doing “insufficient, unvalidated testing” by untrained analysts.
The lab also lost its biggest customers, including the Minnesota State Patrol, and Washington and Dakota counties.
On Wednesday, Smith wrote a letter to St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman saying he plans to “explore additional technical expertise.”
Then On Thursday, Smith announced he would replace crime lab head Sgt. Shay Shackle with Senior Cmdr. Colleen Luna.
“[Luna] currently leads our internal affairs investigation unit and has more than a decade of experience working in the crime lab,” Smith said.
The chief plans to have pending and current cases involving narcotics retested.
“We are working through our review process to find an independent laboratory to be able to review those cases,” Smith said.
Smith is also offering to pay for Dakota County’s retesting involving the case that brought the lab’s problems to light.
The St. Paul Crime lab has a staff of eight, including two sergeants and two officers. They also do testing on finger print identification and DNA collection; that work will continue.
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