Familiar crime lab situation 

A technician in the San Francisco Police Department crime lab was suspected of committing serious violations of protocols, so an audit was performed and the lab was found to be unclean, lacking in chain-of-custody protocols and having substandard record-keeping.

Sound familiar?

It should. Because it happened in 1995.

Yes, back when Val Kilmer was Batman and Jim Carrey was funny, it was discovered that Police Department criminalist Allison Lancaster had been "dry-labbing" — confirming drug test results without having performed tests. The American Society of Crime Lab Directors did an audit. The results were grim.

At the time, Robert Sager, retired director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s western regional lab, reportedly said, "Evidence handling is abominable. They’re asking for theft. I’d be surprised if it hasn’t already happened."

This brings us to Deborah Madden, the lab tech who’s suspected of stealing some particular office supplies (cocaine) from the lab. Again, a recent audit by the American Society of Crime Lab Directors--Laboratory Accreditation Board reflects issues with records, cleanliness and evidence protection.

The Police Department lab needs help. We don’t need another test to confirm that.


City attorney wants illegal youths to be given some leniency on crimes

A recent letter from City Attorney Dennis Herrera asks Acting U.S. Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler to make it a nonpriority for law enforcement to arrest undocumented youths in medical marijuana cases.

As you may recall, the Board of Supervisors passed a law in November (over Mistermayor’s veto) demanding that the Juvenile Probation Department cease to report undocumented minors arrested on felony charges to federal immigration authorities.

Also last year, Joseph Russoniello, the U.S. attorney for Northern California, issued subpoenas to the Juvenile Probation Department and opened up a criminal investigation into whether The City’s former policy of sending undocumented arrested youths to another county or group homes violated federal laws against harboring and transporting illegal immigrants.

Russoniello’s charges aren’t really supported by legal precedent, but department officials freaked out anyway because they face jail time if for some reason the charges stick. Fear of incurring more criminal charges is one reason the department continues to report undocumented juveniles arrested to federal immigration authorities despite The City’s sanctuary law.

For his part, Russoniello has refused to say the new sanctuary law is OK and is just letting his criminal investigation linger, neither pressing charges nor dropping the case against the Juvenile Probation Department. Like it got a note at 8 a.m. saying, "Honey, we need to talk tonight," the department is paralyzed and left to imagine what’s in store while mumbling, "But I didn’t do anything wrong" over and over.

Grindler’s predecessor issued a statement in 2009 declaring medical marijuana to be unworthy of federal law enforcement resources and pledged to focus on serious drug criminals. Herrera’s recent letter asked Grindler (Russoniello’s boss! Snap!) to place "go after local government that refuses to identify undocumented juveniles" next to "go after grandma with glaucoma and a weed card" on the "meh, don’t bother" list of prosecution.

Stay tuned.


Open letter to mayor on leaving office

Dear Mistermayor,

I still can’t believe you’re running for lieutenant governor. And it’s not just because Misterlieutenantgovernor doesn’t have the same ring to it. Surely a man of your intelligence, who can induce audience seizures by rattling off statistics, knows that "lieutenant" doesn’t mean "almost." It means "not."

Just like the rumors that you might choose not to run, ideas about how to prevent progressives on the Board of Supervisors from choosing your replacement are humbug. Assuming you win, waiting a few days to take office as lieutenant governor will not stop the board from declaring your replacement as soon as the votes have been counted. And any nerd can tell you that changing the replacement process using a charter amendment takes six votes by the very Board of Supervisors that currently, excitedly, might get to choose that replacement. I do hope you ask, though. That will be funny.

I’ve been getting e-mails for weeks from San Franciscans interested to know where they can contribute to your rival for the Democratic Party nomination, Janice Hahn. (Google it, people.) Wielding your veto pen against the board, you funded the Community Justice Center and forced concessions on a number of other laws. Lots of folks are scared to see you go.

And maybe we weren’t as concerned about you leaving when you were running for governor, but there are two good reasons for that: Most of us didn’t think you’d win that one and if you left to be governor, it would be like you were leaving because you got the lead in a movie. This is more like getting dumped for an unpaid internship in the Forestry Department. Ouch!

Wounded as I am by this move, I don’t wish ill on you, sir. Actually, for your sake, I hope you win, because you’re already dangerously close to being the lieutenant mayor of San Francisco.

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Melissa Griffin

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