Senator Ross Wants Stricter Drug Lab Oversight
Senator Ross is supporting a plan to create a forensic service drug laboratory oversight committee.
Senator Richard J. Ross (R-Wrentham) is joining his colleagues in the Senate Republican Caucus to request that a forensic services drug laboratory oversight board be created within the Executive Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security.
The board would be in place to oversee all state facilities that provide forensic services in criminal investigations. The legislation will be filed this week by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, Assistant Minority Leader Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth), Minority Whip Richard Ross and Senator Michael Knapik (R-Westfield), the Ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
This proposal comes as a result of the criminal investigation of Annie Dookhan, a chemist at the state lab in Jamaica Plain from 2003 – 2012. Dookhan has been charged with 27 counts of tampering with drug evidence, compromising thousands of cases and leading to several convictions being overturned. She has pled not guilty to these charges.
“This legislation is vital to sustaining the public safety and facilitating the proper operation of our criminal justice system,” said Senator Ross. “It is imperative that we as a legislature do all we can to ensure that we are in a position to prevent these problems from arising in the future.”
The board would be comprised of five members, including the secretary of public safety and security, the attorney general, the inspector general, the colonel of the state police, or their designees, and the Governor’s appointee. The undersecretary of public safety for forensic sciences will be responsible for advising and reporting to the board on the administration and delivery of forensic services. Reports will include information on the volume of forensic services being performed at each facility and by each employee, the time period between submission for testing and receipt of results, and employee records and incident reports.
The proposed legislation also includes various requirements to facilitate the proper oversight of these facilities. Each facility will be required to be fully and actively accredited with the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board. All facilities must comply with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards.
At least one public oversight hearing will be held each year for testimony to be presented to the board on state laboratories. The legislation also requires a system to be created that will receive complaints and tips on potential problems via telephone and email.