Tom Ammiano Wants to Regulate Crime Lab, Calls for New Legislation

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In December, we reported that a San Francisco crime lab employee skimming cocaine from the lab for personal use was only a small part of the larger overlooked problem with the county's DNA lab.

It's no secret that the crime lab is in need of some serious overhaul, but here is the state's first real attempt to legislate some kind of change.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano is trying to reform the way crime labs operate. Ammiano, a San Francisco Democrat, wants to create an oversight body that would establish new rules for every law enforcement agency to use when collecting and handling evidence in criminal cases.

"Obviously, it's because of what happened with San Francisco and their ongoing issues with the crime lab," said Quintin Mecke, a spokesman for Ammiano. "Those are clear examples of problems facing crime labs."

He pointed to the case of Ruby Ordenana, a transgendered prostitute who was raped and murdered in 2007. DNA evidence in her case sat at the crime lab for more than two years before it was tested, leading to an arrest last spring. During that time, the suspect continued to attack.

The state had formed a task force, charged with finding some ways to fix the broken crime lab system, but it disbanded last year, unable to agree on any solutions. So Ammiano is picking up where it left off.

Mecke says that the legislation, which will be submitted Friday, will address the lack of oversight of crime labs across the state. Ammiano wants to create some standards with crime lab operations to make them run more effectively in each city. Ammiano's office remained vague about what those standards might look like.

It won't necessarily mean creating more bureaucracy. Ammiano is tossing around the idea of establishing a commission to oversee the crime lab rules and regulations statewide.

"There will be a lot of back-and-forth about what it will look like," Mecke said.

Until, then many crimes remain unsolved.

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