An employee of the Fort Worth Police Crime Laboratory has filed a whistleblower complaint alleging “an extreme lag in testing of child sexual abuse cases” and “falsification of records and policy violations that could affect hundreds of criminal cases,” according to an October 14 Fort Worth Star-Telegram article.
The whistleblower, Trisa Crutcher, filed a 174-page report “with the Fort Worth Police Department, the FBI, and the Texas Forensic Science Commission,” according to the article. She first reported her concerns to the Fort Worth police department, but they allegedly conducted an investigation of the lab and “found no wrongdoing,” according to Crutcher’s report. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram obtained a copy of the report but is not yet public. Her report also states that she was placed on administrative leave after she filed her first complaint and “could not work in the lab while slandering the lab.”
Crutcher’s report alleges that “child sexual assault cases average more than a year of delay in testing, which has created a backlog of more than 100 cases over four years,” according to the article. The delays have “often resulted in missed court dates by forensic experts and delayed justice for child victims,” according to Crutcher. Crutcher went to the police with concerns about the backlogs in May of 2019, but the department allegedly handled her concerns unsatisfactorily, with lab officials telling Crutcher, “Nobody believes you.” Crutcher also claims in her report that the lab director Michael Ward “instructed the Biology Unit to consider homicide cases as the Lab’s priority due to ‘politics.’”
The report also accuses Crutcher’s superior Cassie Johnson of using grants from the National Institute of Justice, which were intended to reduce the backlog. Instead, the money was allegedly used for “software and equipment.”
Along with allegations of case backlogs, Crutcher’s report raised issues about “nonexistent units” like the “photography unit” being cited in capital murder cases, yet those units did not exist. She also claims that there has been misconduct in the staff’s handling of DNA submission forms.
Larry Moore, the chief of the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office criminal division, said in a statement: “According to our office’s review of the report and the FWPD Crime Lab employee’s testimony, the accuracy of the outcome of testing is valid and the science is sound. The report has been turned over to the Forensic Science Commission and we are waiting for their analysis.”