Monday, May 24, 2010

Orange County Grand Jury: Give crime lab back to sheriff

he Orange County Grand Jury today recommended that the crime lab revert back to the authority of Sheriff Sandra Hutchens.

Because of political infighting, the countywide crime lab was placed in October 2008 into the hands of Hutchens, District Attorney Tony Rackaukas and county chief Tom Mauk. The structure was to be reviewed in a year and, according to today’s grand jury report, was seen as temporary.

However, the report — entitled “DNA: Whose is it? Orange County Crime Lab’s or the District Attorney’s” — gave no reason why Hutchen’s office should again be given sole authority over the countywide lab.

Rackauckas’ office, in its own 22-page report issued this morning, said the cooperation between the agencies is what has put Orange County at the forefront of forensic crime fighting.

The grand jury was unable to obtain enough financial information to determine whether separate DNA operations run by the county lab and Rackauckas were cost efficient. But the panel found the two operations were not redundant.

The county lab processes crime scene, felony DNA that is then matched with state and federal databases. Rackauckas, by offering plea deals, collects DNA from low-level, first-time misdemeanor defendants for his own local database. These samples, processed through a private lab, are not eligible to be entered in the state or federal databases.

Rackauckas has collected at least 22,000 samples as of March, resulting in 3 hits. The grand jury recommended that an internal audit be done of the district attorney’s operation and how much it would cost to have the county crime lab take over processing efforts. An analysis should also look at the revenue generating aspect of Rackaukas’ local database, the grand jury concluded.

The Watchdog is trying to reach the sheriff’s office to get its view.

And we’re combing through the DA’s report for more details. Stay tuned.

http://taxdollars.freedomblogging.com/2010/05/24/grand-jury-give-crime-lab-back-to-sheriff-hutchens/57829/

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