The review was part of an effort to give the HPD fingerprinting unit national accreditation and credibility. It is a similar and successful effort made with the Crime Lab. The audit uncovered problems that included technical ability,
inadequate standard operating procedures and quality control and insufficient staffing. Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt says the problems were found in more than half the cases reviewed:
“One type of technical error occurs when the examiner states a print is reported as not been sufficient for further analysis, when in fact it was sufficient and should have been examined. This type of technical error was found in 53-percent of the audited cases,of the 548 cases.”
Hurtt says fingerprint evidence of every major case from the last six years: murder, rape, robbery and violent attack will be reviewed.
“At the conclusion of the six year review, two decisions will be made. First, whether or not it is necessary to continue the reanalysis for additional prior years and second, whether or not it is necessary to begin reanalysis of property crime cases.”
As a result of the audit, one temporary employee was terminated and a supervisor and two examiners were put on administrative leave. Chief Hurtt says he’s not sure how much it will cost to conduct the review or to fix the problems found. He’s to appear before Houston city council for funding.