'This is allowing violent offenders to go free': HPDU calls for forensic center president to resign

ByJiovanni Lieggi KTRK logo
Thursday, July 27, 2023
Evidence-processing backlog behind calls for leadership change
The head of the Houston Police Officers' Union is calling for a change at the top of the Houston Forensic Sciences Center, claiming a backlog is allowing violent offenders to walk free.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston Police Officers' Union President Douglas Griffith is fed up. He said violent offenders are walking free because of the city's forensic science center.

The Houston Forensic Science Center works to process evidence gathered during police investigations.

Recent data published by the forensic center shows a backlog of about 4,000 pieces of evidence waiting to be processed. This includes rape kits, firearms, and DNA.

Now, Griffith wants the forensic center's president, Dr. Peter Stout, to resign.

"I have an issue with how he controls his house over there, and it needs to turn around now," Griffith said.

The forensic center processes about 30,000 pieces of evidence every year, according to data.

The Houston Police Department previously ran the forensic center before a new department took it over in 2012. Under the police department's control, the center was plagued with problems.

In 2002, under HPD's control, the forensic center had a backlog of almost 20,000 sexual assault kits that were waiting to be processed.

An independent investigation into the lab in 2005 raised questions about the quality of work that was being done there.

SEE ALSO: The Houston Police Officers' Union warning employees to not file minor complaints against each other

In 2007, a report showed a firearm backlog of about 600 cases compared to the now 291 cases waiting to be processed.

In 2008, the DNA portion of the lab was shut down when it was revealed that technicians received unfair help on a proficiency test.

A police union spokesperson said the backlog was fixed when the police department handed it over in 2012.

Griffith claims the current backlog has caused problems for investigators in court. He said judges are dismissing cases.

"This is allowing violent offenders to go free every day in our city. I've got a real issue with that," Griffith said.

In a comment when asked about the prior issues in 2012, the same police union spokesperson ABC13 spoke to said the work needs to be contracted out to help with the backlog, and even if it is contracted out, they are still calling for Stout's resignation.

Eyewitness News also reached out to the forensic science center and asked why there is a current backlog. They provided a statement explaining that it is because of staff turnover and an increased request for services.

A spokesperson also said they are outsourcing casework where available and have made process improvements.

SEE ALSO: 4 analysts at Houston Forensic Science Center fired after starting own DNA company, officials say