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Austin Police Crime Lab Under the Spotlight, Again

Photo by KUT News

The Austin Police Department crime lab is getting another round of scrutiny.

The Travis County District Attorney’s office announced yesterday they referred allegations of sloppy work at APD’s crime lab to the Texas Department of Public Safety and local criminal defense attorneys for review.

The complaints were levied by Debra Stephens, a former crime lab employee. In a letter to D.A. Rosemary Lehmberg, Stephens alleges drug evidence was “being analyzed without regard to proper laboratory procedures.” She cites “a rush to report results” that lead to cutting corners, and warns “there are hundreds of other cases dating back to 2005 that were analyzed without regard to laboratory protocols.”

DPS has issued a preliminary response. In a separate press release, APD downplayed the allegations, and characterized Stephens as a disgruntled former employee "looking to bring discredit to the Austin Police Department’s Forensics Chemistry Laboratory."

The crime lab has come under investigation before. The DNA crime lab was audited by the Texas Rangers in 2010.

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.