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Minutes from 1/9/15 Science Advisory Board Meeting

Department of Forensic Sciences

Science Advisory Board Meeting

Friday, January 9, 2015

 

Dr. Max M. Houck, Department of Forensic Sciences (DFS) Director, calls to order the Science Advisory Board (SAB) meeting via WebEx at 9:13 a.m., Friday, January 9, 2015.  He announced recording of the web-based meeting and recognized onsite attendees during roll identifying: board member Dr. William Grosshandler, DFS Deputy Director Christopher Maguire, DFS General Counsel Christine Funk, Executive Assistant Herbert Thomas and public attendee Julia Burl of the Public Defender Services for the District of Columbia. Meeting participants via telepresence included Yi-Ru Chen, DFS Chief of Operations, Science Advisory Board Chair Irv Litofsky and board members Dr. Charlotte Word, Dr. Jay Siegel, Dr. Clif Bishop and Joe Bono.

A quorum was established to conduct board business.

Board Chair Litofsky presented the October 7, 2014, meeting minutes. Following the board’s review and approval, the minutes were adopted.

There were no reports of allegations received by DFS General Counsel Christine Funk during the quarter. The Science Advisory Board subgroup, comprised of Drs. Michael Coble, Sandy Zabell, Word and Bishop was commended for their contributions to the ‘Interpretation of Complex DNA Mixtures’ report submitted to DFS. Director Houck acknowledged receipt of the report and posting of the document to the DFS website. Also noted were two other related reports.

Presently, development of the department’s DNA protocol is ongoing and training of DNA analysts is anticipated by the end of January 2015. Director Houck pointed out that until the new SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) is in place, DNA mixture interpretations will not be conducted. DFS General Counsel Funk reported that the DNA mixture case responsible for the recent attention raised regarding this issue has been resolved.

Deputy Director Maguire provided an update on ParaDNA, the presumptive test for looking at stains. The plan is to implement the methodology to case work as a screening test by the end of January. The impact would mean providing DNA results within days or hours rather than months. The outcome of a bid for National Institute of Justice (NIJ) funding for the project is anticipated in February 2015.

The Digital Evidence Unit is accepting evidence. Initially, cell phones will be the concentration for the current staff of four. Additional positions are expected to be filled. The Forensic Science Laboratory achieved aggressive targets in productivity for end-of-year goals. DFS leadership is currently working on 2015 goals. Crime scene scientists are deploying to crime scenes. The unit has acquired five crime scene vehicles and the acquisition of additional vehicles is planned.

The board was informed about the new mayoral administration, its leadership, the reporting structure and the elimination of the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice position from this structure. This change will impact the legislatively mandated Stakeholders Council, chaired by the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice. During a recent briefing, Director Houck informed the Deputy City Administrator of the importance in resolving the matter quickly. It is not certain whether legislative changes will be necessary.

Board member Grosshandler reported that teleworking for DFS employees was a point of interest raised by them during a staff dialogue at SAB meeting on October 7, 2014. Director Houck stated that General Counsel Funk would research the labor relations issue and report her findings.

The board briefly discussed potential meeting dates for the rest of 2015 and adjourned at 9:50 a.m.

An audio recording of the meeting is available upon request.