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tv   Special Transbay Joint Powers Authority 82516  SFGTV  September 1, 2016 7:30pm-8:01pm PDT

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>> this park is open. ♪ >> [gavel] good morning and welcome to a special meeting of the government audit and oversight
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committee of the san francisco board of supervisors. i am the chair of the committee aaron peskin joined to my right by norman yee our member london breed is in the nation's capitol today and won't be joining us. madam clerk do you have any announcements? >> please silence all cell phones and 21 electronic devices and all documents submitted to the clerk and items will be on the. board of supervisors agenda unless otherwise stated. >> thank you ms. major. fiscal year can we have a motion to -- supervisor yee can we have a member to excuse supervisor breed. >> (inaudible). >> that is moved. madam clerk can you read item 1 and two. >> item 1 is a hearing on the recently published entitled "san
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francisco's crime lab" promoting confidence and building credibility. >> thank you madam clerk. first i would to thank the civil grand jury for this report acknowledge our interim police chief tony chaplin is with us and with that turn it over to the foreperson of the civil grand jury to present. >> thank you chairman. i would like to introduce katherine coffee and chuck thompson who are presenting on behalf of the civil grand jury. >> yes, can you say your name for the record? >> my name is jay cunningham. >> thank you. please proceed. >> good morning. my name is chuck thompson, and i was a member of the 2015-2016 civil grand jury. i want to thank you for holding this hearing. i am
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here today to discuss the results of the civil grand jury's review of the operations of the san francisco police department's crime lab. the crime lab is a public laboratory that is managed by the city's police department. over the past several years the credibility of the crime lab has come into serious question. this was causeed in part by a serious of unfortunate incidents ranging from cocaine theft in the drug analysis laboratory to a mix-up of two samples of dna evidence during testing in a homicide case to the famure of two -- failure of two criminologist to pass the test and resulted in the closure of the drug lab. our report summarizes these and other past
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incidents. we report out the stepped reportedly taken to address the issues and the quality of the lab's work. we see these steps as progress progress in strengthening the lab. it is also our opinion that the current technical staff of the lab is very cable, and committed to their work, and to improvements being under taken. at the same time our report outlines additional steps needed to sustain this progress and reduce the chances of similar problems in the future. some of these will be challenging and beyond the control of the crime lab personnel. it is these they want to focus on today. it is our feeling that the operations and independence of the crime lab would be strengthened by greater continuity at the top lead by an experienced civilian
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scientist as director rather than the current rotating secession of police officers. since 2010 the crime lab has had a sworn police captain in charge of the day-to-day operations of the lab. we found that the turnover of the captains has been frequent and their forensic experience as for the most part has been limited. since 2010 no fewer than six police officers have held the title of director of forensic services. the level of turn over does not provide in our view the needed continuity for effective crime lab leadership. going one step further we believe there is a need for an independent crime lab totally separated from the police department. this is not
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a new or novel idea. in 2009 a blue ribbon committee of the national academy of sciences recommended that all public forensic laboratories and facilities should be removed from the administrative control of law enforcement agencies or prosecutor's offices. the committee stated and i quote "forensic scientists who sit administratively in law enforcement agencies or prosecutor's offices or hired by these units are subject to the general risk of bias." we agree with this statement. the need for independence was also a consistent theme we heard from many of those we interviewed during the course of our review. it is time to begin moving in that direction. >> and mr. thompson as this
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was not actually included or at least i didn't see it in the grand jury report are you awear of other jurisdictions that have heeded that national academy of science's recommendation and civilizing and making this function independent. >> there are a number. i don't have the names at hand but in our research we did find -- >> [inaudible] [off mic] >> okay. houston and washington, d.c.. >> thank you. >> sure. the movement towards independence could be achieved by a two step process. the first would be to replace the police captain as director of forensics with the civilian scientists. the second step would be to establish an antonymous independently funded crime lab totally separate from
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the police department. an opportune time to complete the process of separation would be when the crime lab moves into its new facility that it will share with the office of the chief medical examiner. this is currently estimated to be in late 2017. before closing i would like to mention one other issue and that is the benefit of reestablishing the drug analysis lab. the lab was closed in 2010 after the discovery of the cocaine theft, and drug analysis was contracted to another public drug lab. reopening the drug lab at this time would benefit the city and the lab by reducing cost and training ground for new
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crim lift in courtroom testimony and analysis. thank you for allowing us to give this review. >> mr. thompson you didn't cover the laboratory management system which is one of your fundamental recommendations. are you under the impression -- is the reason you didn't cover that because you believe it has been implemented? >> no, the reason i didn't cover it was to condense primarily the best i could into five minutes. >> why don't we give you a another couple minutes to talk about that. >> sure. the crime lab has doptd want to of the lim system, laboratory information management system. at the time we completed our review this had not been completed, and we hope it will move forward. the other point we make in our report is that in developing this system it is very important to take the
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views of their contichancy within the city government and what their needs are. that would be the prosecutor's office. that would be the defense attorney, and any other stakeholder. i believe that the city is trying to move forward on that, and our recommendation is they continue with that progress but most important build into it a way of interacting and getting feedback from those that could use it the best. >> thank you mr. thompson and thank you to the civil grand jury for your -- i found this -- albyet half dozen years after the revelations that we read in the newspaper to be extremely helpful, informative and i greatly appreciate the recommendations. supervisor yee any questions from mr. thompson? we can obviously come back to him. >> no. this is pretty clear to me. >> thank you.
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>> okay. should we -- chief, you want to come up and respond on behalf of the department? i guess the way this works is the responses were as to the recommendations and findings were from the mayor's office, but really on behalf of the department, so the floor is yours. >> good morning supervisors. >> good morning chief. >> first i want to thank the civil grand jury for the hard work and dedication they showed to the city and county by this process. i met a lot of the grand jury folks and they're very good people and did a lot of hard work and a lot of long hours and i appreciate it. a very comprehensive report. for the police department's role in this i will have deputy chief denise smild respond to the findings of the grand jury and i want to thank them for the work and with they will bring her up. she's the deputy chief of our administrative bureau. >> thank you chief. deputy
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chief submitted welcome. >> thank you. i am the deputy chief of administration. first i would like to say on behalf of the police department echo the chief's statement. the report the civil grand jury did for us, the work they did for the city it's invaluable and we really appreciate the depth they took in studying us and reflecting and making strong recommendations that will approve this city resource that we need to function the way it's meant to. i think it's important to note there were 21 findings in the report and 22 recommendations that came through and for the most part the police department, the mayor's office and the controllers agreed with the findings. they were thoughtful. they showed an understanding of the science and they were consistent, and i think that's important to note that agreed with a lot of it and to the extent we disagreed in some ways
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we disagreed partially and some of that was a function of the time that has passed since they viewed the lab and the progress made through the years and through the last six month period especially. >> i think there were only two that you disagreed with or the mayor's office disagreed with totally as i recall. >> okay. i like your math. anytime i can agree with you i will. i would say that just to respond or reflect on what was just put in front of us that you raised the issue of the lim system -- >> i take that back. it was four. >> okay. stop doing math. the lim system, the lab information management system, justice track is the vendor identified in the process in late spring. they are on board. captain mar is with us today. the crime lab manager is not
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here today and with justice tract. we're in the process of customizing the system and it jumps off the page in the report. you need an information system as the backbone so when evidence comes into the city process it's immediately identified. it's tracked through there and reports can be generated, information can be pushed out to all the stakeholders, and even more exciting than pushing out information is the fact we can build on this system so that the stakeholders can themselves through licensing be allowed access to the system results, and that will eliminate a lot of the things that was evident to the grand jury and evident to us. the time lost of personnel answering phone calls and sending emails f the system is in place that efficiency will astronomically improve the
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performance of the crime lab. i'm sorry. >> deputy chief as to its customization this is off the shelf product that needs to be adjusted for the unique situation of our crime lab. why is it not just a plug in app? >> i think in the industry you will find that nothing is plug and play and everything requires making sure that the technology interacts with the existing technology that you have and that the way you want your reports to be formatted making sure that they are comprehensive and track through all of the processes; that they reflect the current fbi standards and other standards and all of that has to be done and that is what part of what the rfp called for, part of what the vendor was required to do to qualify for this. >> and what is the anticipated
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period of time for the customization to take place? >> so we're -- we will finish the interact process and the online testing and have it functioning fully by the spring of 2017. >> okay thank you. >> you're welcome. second would be maybe to talk about positions a little bit. i think that one of the points that wasn't identified specifically to you but has to do with staffing and making sure that enough scientists are in place to handle the evidence that we get. we get thousands and thousands of piece of evidence every year. all has to be entered, evaluated, analyzed, results verified and up loaded in some cases and results communicated. we need the people that can do the work. >> and this is a staff of about 30. >> correct. 25. but in the last month we added six additional dna positions. four
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are on boarded and starting the training process which is standard in the industry that is required of the amount of time, the type of certification they have to go through, the validation of their skill sets and that is in process. >> this is to deal with the backlog of dna rape kits. >> this is in general and to the backlog of rape kits i know it's referenced in the report and i know the report does have historical reiteration but as it stands now we have screened all sex assault evidence kits and placed them in the process of analysis and we're meeting above the regulations that came out the last year to make sure that nationally law enforcement and crime labs could process this evidence in a timely matter and not just that but you know the board passed additional legislation to make sure that survivors of these crimes
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should they choose to be notified are notified of the results in a timely manner so captain mar and captain from the special victims unit have worked together to make sure that process is in order with us and we're in compliance with the legislation and we're moving faster with processing the evidence and meet the timelines so results are communicated and survivors are not left you know in the dark. but to get back to the six positions four have been on boarded of the remaining two -- one starts this month and the last one moving from out of town and a reflection of the ability of the city to attract the national -- from across the nation for the people for the positions. that person starts with us in october so it's a very exciting time for the folks at the crime lab because they're bringing in the human resources they need and they're bringing the technology they need and they can see the potential for
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this work to start to move in a more efficient means and they know the results of that will be great for them. so the limbs is coming on board. the communication is another important element brought out to the report communicating with all stakeholders. the lab communicates with the results and with the stakeholders with their needs through several stakeholder meetings that take place under the direction of right now the captain of forensic and the crime lab manager, but also has worked to bring on board the [inaudible] outcome project which reports out the results of samples that are submitted to the fbi coda system so we brought a lot of technology we have existing to
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make sure we're pushing out information in a more response manner and lastly to speak to the heart of the report which is about the leadership question, and for the city to really take advantage of what has been presented to us the police department knows there's further analysis needed and i think that's what the mayor's response reflected of how we manage this asset. however, there is no question and we are moving forward on the leadership being science lead. the report that referenced 2009 report and the industry itself has wrestled with this question of how shall we manage this asset? how does it best serve all the stakeholders? houston, washington, d.c. and detroit were the three agencies that i am aware of that attempted the move away from law enforcement and a district attorney or other
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management. detroit want attempted it and not successful. they found so many issues with the model they went back to the model they had. washington, d.c. has had mixed results, still weighing and i don't know how they will come down on that. houston continues forward and there are issues with it. it is certainly something that is discussed nationally as the industry you know advances. science is developing so quickly though we know the one thing we need and that is a forensic services director who is scienced based and have the skill set to manage a big city asset like this. >> that's the first step of the grand jury's recommendation. >> right. we have been working with the department of human resources. we have selected a search agency and we are under going oi search for a director to lead the crime lab
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for the city so that's the big step we have taken because we recognize the decision making there and the person who runs that decision making, who makes the recommendation, the chief of police needs a full understanding of what not only what science exists and what we have but where we can go and we've always had a good relationship with the scientists in the lab. however, they need to be telling us is our feeling so we're moving forward with that. >> any time frame for that hire to be made? >> i don't know about the hire to be made. probably the company has a 16 week time frame and i didn't get an update where they are with that but we expect to meet with them in the next week. >> and that individual wouldn't be a sworn officer? >> no. the current captain who is assigned to that division is
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also a scientist, captain mar who is here today but that's not what we need. we need a scientist that understands the special nature of forensic science and different than other applications and that's what we're looking for and we're going to look until we find just the right fit. >> supervisor yee. >> so you mentioned that some of the cities that has been trying to implement this structure has had issues. are there particular issues that are like common to all of the cities? something that in -- is it something we can actually overcome? >> i couldn't speak to specificity why detroit choose to move away from it or the struggles that washington, d.c. is having, but i will say that the report talks about the two risks, one of which is bias, and
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the appearance of bias, and i think that no matter where you place the science there's always going to be the risk of bias because we're human beings and even the really smart scientists are and we all have inside of us the potential for that so what we've done in the police department we started training, under taking training with our scientists and crime lab personnel to address that bias to make sure that they're aware of it. they're looking for it in their practices and they're having that discussion on the national level with the regulatory agencies and with the fbi because this is a concern for all scientists that engage in this type of work that their work is objective, and validated so we do that. we also look at different models of analyzing evidence. there's blind models. there's all different ways that -- nationally the industry is looking at to remove this bias
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risk from their profession, and the second thing i would say is the report based a lot on the contention that funding and the support that labs need for funding might be better served in a different structural organization and i think that is challenging for all cities because to create a separate department and the infrastructure under that to supports it needs might increase your funding overall costs. right now the lab in the police department benefits -- especially sitting in the administration bureau -- benefits from the nexus to a fully staffed personnel section being closely tied to the fiscal, the budget, being closely tied to the training and to technology. we are able to support the lab in ways that other organizational structures wight not be able to support the lab and this is the mayor's
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section and he's right to say i believe that it requires further study. >> i am hoping that if there's not an entity out there and looking at those difficulties or issues that people are having i am hoping that our department as you reach out to the cities and ask what's going on so we can actually learn from it. >> i think you know one of the examples of the issue is you're talking about piece of evidence and the more entities you have touch a piece of evidence the more opportunities you have to compromise that chain of evidence and cause problems for the courts and your evidence first enters this system through the hands of your law enforcement agency, and little
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then turned over to and then turned over to the crime lab for analysis and tracked through that process. the more times you can -- the fewer times you can have a separate entity involving itself, transferring itself the better it is overall for the courts which is the end result, and remember the lion's share of the evidence you touch may be exculpatory and not lead to an outcome that the district attorney's office would be invested in. it might be inculpatory but not sufficient enough -- so where the case goes once the evidence gets back to the investigators may not end up in the courts, but it has to be handled correctly so that if it gets to the courts it's beyond
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question. >> go ahead. >> i actually don't have anything else. >> so maybe this is not a question for deputy chief but based on what she said perhaps the july 31 letter from the mayor to the civil grand jury may need a little bit of revision based on what i just heard because in a couple of these instances where they are saying requires further analysis you're actually saying you're moving forward with getting a civilian scientist to be the forensics unit manager, so is there somebody here from the mayor's office? >> good morning supervisor. jason cunningham from the
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mayor's office. your statement is correct that we working with the police department and their crime lab currently in bringing in the crime lab manager position which was added towards the end of the last budget cycle. as to why the letter states requires further analysis i believe that statement is included as a statement that means we require further work in order to fully develop the mqs for the position, work through dhr, work through the contractors there in order to develop the required pool of individuals that the police department and the crime lab would then pull in for interviews. >> right, but i think the actually verbiage that is required there is that you partially agree. i mean yes, you can do the minimum qualifications and what have you but i think on page nine of 15 of the response from the
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mayor's office with regard to recommendation ra3 i think that that's actually -- and i am being argumentative and you actually -- or the department chief partially agrees. >> supervisor based on the information that was given by the deputy chief i would concur. >> and then with regard to the lims -- not to put too fine a point on it. this is on page ten of 15. i don't think the recommendation has been implemented. i think that you agree and the recommendation is in the process of being implemented and the reason that is important is because i don't want this issue to leave the jurisdiction of the government audits committee. i would us to