Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXVI, No. 543 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY November 15, 2000

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In this issue:

Around The Nation: A coast-to-coast roundup of police news.
People & Places: Quarter-millionaire; Bratton gets the call; Houston, we have a problem; inside out; class act; Mass. appeal; now you see them, now you don’t.
Shoot? Don’t shoot. Cops get new guidance on firing at vehicles.
At their fingertips: Field trainers get help from Palm Pilot software.
Pulling the plug: SWAT training ends in death, maybe policy change.
Take a number: Lining up to review police shootings in Detroit.
Virtual pursuits: Simulator helps deputies get a grip on chases.
Beg pardon: Would-be cop gets a clean record.
Access denied: Why a local PD can’t use Indiana’s crime database.
Pluses & minuses: Florida cops are honest, proud, overworked & underpaid.
Sweetening the deal: Can bonuses lure Chicago cops to work in high-crime districts?
That does not compute: Data overload hampers Customs’ computer system.
Forum: A pure & simple solution to potential DNA contamination.
Letters to the Editor: Readers sound off.
Win some, lose some: Courts rule on police-related matters.

Note to Readers:

The opinions expressed on the Forum page are those of the contributing writer or cartoonist, or of the original source newspaper, and do not represent an official position of Law Enforcement News.

Readers are invited to voice their opinions on topical issues, in the form of letters or full-length commentaries. Please send all materials to the editor.


An overlooked source in DNA lab contamination

      Perhaps more than any other legal event in recent years, the O. J. Simpson trial — hyped by the news media as the “trial of the century” — focused attention on many issues which, for the most part, had remained in the background or in the courtroom. One of those issues brought up during that trial by well motivated (and well prepared) defense attorneys was the possible contamination of DNA evidence from the crime scene — specifically mishandling, poor documentation, careless storage and sloppy testing procedures, among other problems.
      Opening the door to scrutiny. By its nature, testing of DNA samples for forensic purposes is hypersensitive, mainly because there are so many possible ways to introduce contamination and thus open the test results to scrutiny. Working with genetic materials, as well as the chemicals and compounds associated with their testing, presents a unique set of challenges at the forensic lab. Among these challenges are the design and construction of building ventilation systems (HVAC) in general, and laboratory work station exhaust systems in particular. These are critical factors because there must be no room for anyone to question their methods of operation, testing and analysis procedures. During the Simpson trial, the possibility of cross-contamination of DNA evidence was pushed hard by the defense team, apparently with good reason and obviously with successful outcome...