Police Will Still Bust Drug Dealers Despite Crime Lab Closure

Categories: Crime
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Still in business...
Police Chief George Gascon ensured in a Thursday afternoon press conference that police are continuing to bust drug dealers even as the department crime lab's narcotics unit went dark this week after accusations one of the civilian lab technicians was skimming drugs from evidence samples she was testing.

Starting Friday, drug evidence will be tested at regional crime labs at the Alameda and San Mateo County Sheriffs' Departments, the Oakland Police Department, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The district attorney has dropped drug cases this week due to no testing being available or having cases that had been tested by alleged coke thief technician Deborah Madden. Gascon said he's "outraged" by alleged criminals walking free, and promised that once the samples are re-tested, the charges will be re-filed and the suspects re-arrested.

"Christmas is going to be very short-lived," he said. "They have not got off the hook."

Gascon blasted Public Defender Jeff Adachi's assertion Wednesday that the hundreds or perhaps thousands of cases that Madden worked on should be dismissed as "grossly overstated." Madden is accused of taking small amounts of cocaine she tested in October 2009; Gascon stated that does not invalidate the investigation or prosecution of the cases.

Still, he accepted blame on the police department's behalf for not disclosing to the district attorney or defense attorneys about Madden's former misdemeanor domestic abuse conviction.

"We made a mistake. We failed to disclose that," Gascon said. While acknowledging her integrity as an expert witness would have been attacked in court had the crime of moral turpitude been known, "It's up to the court to determine whether that conviction would affect her credibility to the point that she could not do her job. "

Evidence will continue to be tested at the regional crime labs while the narcotic unit is audited by the American Society of Crime Lab Directors and the California Association of Crime Lab Directors in the upcoming weeks. Gascon said he will also enlist the support of California Attorney General Jerry Brown for help in "re-testing of evidence, and the improvement of internal administrative controls."

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