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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cops Bid Adieu to Scandal-Plagued Drug Lab

Posted By on Wed, May 5, 2010 at 4:45 PM

click to enlarge Sorry, kids. The San Francisco Police Department is getting out of the drug business.
  • Sorry, kids. The San Francisco Police Department is getting out of the drug business.
San Francisco Police employees will stop doing drugs, Chief George Gascon today announced. No, really.

The department's drug lab -- site of a massive scandal involving narcotics-skimming tech Deborah Madden -- will go the way of the dodo. Instead, the SFPD will now outsource drug-testing to private companies. This drug-testing process, the chief announced at a press conference, would still be done under "our supervision" -- though a little supervision of the crime lab could well have come earlier.

It turns out testing drugs is nearly as expensive as doing them: It costs about $100 a pop to work on each sample -- though, sadly, San Francisco's in-house technicians found a lower-tech and cheaper way to gauge drugs' purity. Gascon says he hopes the number of tests ordered will be cut from an eye-popping 14,000 to somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,500 to 4,000.

This can be accomplished by only testing drugs in contentious cases and by having cops perform preliminary tests to establish that the subjects seized aren't, say, oregano and baking powder. Assertions that police can competently undertake drug testing have previously been laughed off by the public defender's office. Don't expect them to change their tune.

The next step for the cops is to outsource their ballistics and DNA testing, too. The latter has turned out to be a tragic -- and headline-grabbing -- problem as samples that could have incriminated Donzell Francis sat untested for years; in the interrim he murdered Ruby Ordenana.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" is a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly, which he has written for since 2007. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers... more


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