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Friday, July 10, 2020

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Staff Editorial: HPD crime lab shadier than usual


The spotlight shifted once again on the Houston Police Department’s crime lab Wednesday, but not for departmental ineptitude or the release of a wrongly convicted prisoner as in the past. Police Chief Harold Hurtt rejected a recommendation to hire an outsider to oversee remaining cases that were improperly handled by HPD’s crime lab, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The proposal was one of many recommendations stemming from investigator Michael Bromwich’s report on the state of the lab.

Since the scandal first broke in December 2002, the lab has lost and regained its accreditation and has found flaws and "major errors" in the cases of convicted prisoners.

Hurtt told the Chronicle he felt "very strongly" that what "needs to accomplished" doesn’t require an outsider, adding that both Mayor Bill White and the Stakeholders Committee, which oversaw the hiring of Bromwich, agreed with his decision.

While it’s good see White being accountable in the public’s eye, the public must wonder: What’s really going on?

After almost five years of intense scrutiny, the lab could just want public opinion to be shifted to their victories, not flaws.

Financial reasons could also be a motive. In Bromwich’s two-year investigation, his team was interrupted twice by the city of Houston, which at times considered terminating funding.

Even if the Bromwich investigation, which has been the only in-depth probe of the lab’s shortcomings, did cost the city $53 million, the release of two wrongly convicted prisoners and the realization of sloppy mistakes in hundreds of cases makes up for the high price tag.


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