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First, the D.C. crime lab lost its accreditation. Soon, the Department of Forensic Sciences will be without a director. Last night, officials announced Jenifer Smith, who has led DFS since 2015, will resign effective May 26.
Recent problems with ballistics testing prompted the national board that certifies forensic labs to suspend D.C.’s accreditation, preventing it from evaluating any evidence related to criminal investigations. This includes rape kits and DNA evidence, as well as ballistics. Although DFS has stated that it’s working to regain accreditation, it’s unclear when or whether that will happen.
Elected officials who called for changes at the lab in the aftermath of the accreditation loss believe Smith’s resignation is the right move. In a statement issued last night, Attorney General Karl Racine, who asked Mayor Muriel Bowser for an immediate leadership change, calls Smith’s departure “an important first step in addressing the substantial issues that led to the decision of the local and federal prosecutors to cease using the lab and its accreditation being stripped.”
Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, who chairs the Council’s public safety committee and stated his belief that Smith should resign last week, echoed those sentiments. “New leadership will allow the agency a chance to chart a path back to being the independent and trusted lab that our city needs,” he told the Washington Post.
Rather than comment on issues at the lab, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Chris Geldart thanked Smith for her service. “We thank Dr. Smith for her service and appreciate the job she has done in progressing the agency during her tenure,” his statement reads.
DFS and Smith have yet to comment on the resignation news, making the path forward even less clear.
— Caroline Jones (tips? email@example.com)
By Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
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