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DC abruptly abolishes the Crime Laboratory’s firearms unit

DC abruptly abolishes the Crime Laboratory’s firearms unit

Months after the district’s troubled crime lab lost its accreditation, the city is moving to essentially dismantle a key unit for the troubled forensic agency and plans to lay off nearly a dozen employees in the firearms investigation unit.

Months after the district’s troubled crime lab lost its accreditation, the city is moving to essentially dismantle a key unit for the troubled forensic agency and plans to lay off nearly a dozen employees in the firearms investigation unit.

The city issued a reduction in force for all 11 remaining members of the DC Department of Forensic Sciences’ firearms unit. They were officially informed of the move on Wednesday, instructed to clear their desks and walked out of the building.

Employees will be paid through October 18, but were sent on immediate administrative leave. The employees are represented by the National Association of Government Employees.

DFS Interim Director Anthony Crispino did not meet with staff or inform them of the agency’s plans in advance – or make any broader comments to the remaining DFS staff about what appears to be a significant restructuring of the agency.

Neither a spokeswoman for the agency nor a spokeswoman for DC’s deputy mayor for public safety and justice responded to an email seeking comment.

A reduction in force means that the Agency abolishes posts rather than dismissing certain staff, and this usually means that the Agency has no plans to replenish them. Such reductions are not related to an employee’s job performance.

DFS did not provide a reason for the move to the 11 affected employees. However, lack of work and a reorganization or reorganization of agencies are both reasons why a power reduction can be issued, according to the District Personnel Manual.

“We are all blindsided,” said one employee, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of staff matters.

The employee called the sudden plan to terminate the entire unit the “ultimate betrayal” when DFS staff met a few weeks ago with members of an external consulting firm and gave ideas on what changes they would make to reform the agency.

The shake-up at the lab comes after a national accreditation committee in an unprecedented move suspended and later withdrew the entire forensic laboratory’s accreditation to perform forensic tests amid an extended series of scandals involving laboratory management, including a criminal investigation by the DC Office of the Inspector General.

The suspension largely ruled out the ballistic device as well as other devices that analyze DNA, fingerprints, and digital evidence. Since April, external laboratories have handled DFS case load.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive, which handles the district’s firearms cases, moved several of its employees to office space at DFS headquarters last month.


More coverage of DC’s troubled crime lab


The DC Laboratory’s problems emerged last spring after a team of experts detained by federal prosecutors and DC’s Office of the Attorney General issued a violent report that leaders in both firearms and the wider agency concealed conflicting findings and possibly has pressured employees to change conclusions following the discovery of a ballistics error in an ongoing homicide case.

In May, former agency director Jenifer Smith resigned amid calls for a change of leadership from DC Attorney General Karl Racine and DC Councilman Charles Allen.

During the summer, the laboratory saw a number of other officials resign, including the former head of the firearms unit, whose handling of the unit was examined in the expert report.

The agency has been working to repair its damaged credibility, hiring the external consulting firm, SNA International, to carry out what has been described as a “top-to-bottom” review of the laboratory’s problems with the aim of regaining accreditation.

This summer, Interim DFS Director Anthony Crispino told members of a Scientific Advisory Committee advising agency leaders that DC leaders are now interested in restoring accreditation for individual units in the laboratory before dealing with “deeper issues” in the Firearms Investigation Unit and latent fingerprint device.

In any case, the lab is not expected to regain full accreditation until early 2022, he said.

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