HPD Chief McClelland: Oh, We Concluded That Investigation Into Fingerprint-Lab Bungling Weeks Ago

Categories: Crime
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Nothing to see here, move along...
Five months ago, the Houston Chronicle broke the story of a criminal investigation into alleged improprieties in the fingerprint unit. The investigation at that point revealed, among other things, that "more than half of 548 randomly selected cases involving fingerprints analyzed at the unit have turned up irregularities."

At the time, HPD had issued a press release about a six-year audit of fingerprints, but did not explicitly mention a criminal probe spurred by that audit. Then-Mayor Bill White, according to the Chron, "said that criminals likely went free because the fingerprint unit missed prints on evidence."

Pretty big deal, right? Sounds like something people might want to know about. But here's the thing: Chief Charles McClelland Jr. didn't mention until today, after a question from a Chron reporter during the chief's monthly press briefing, that the fingerprint investigation concluded weeks ago. He said that two "individuals" were cited for violation of policy, and one has retired or announced his intent to retire. He didn't have further details.

When asked why a press release was never issued, an HPD public information officer said today was the first he had heard that the investigation had concluded. He had no explanation for why he hadn't been told earlier.

We're hoping that this little oversight will be addressed and that a detailed account of the investigation results will be issued. Until then, Hair Balls will be scratching our head, wondering what the hell happened.

The Chief also discussed the following:

-- Eight officers accused of beating a 15-year-old burglary suspect -- an incident that was caught on tape -- appeared before a grand jury Wednesday. McClelland said he will now proceed with a "thorough and objective [administrative] investigation." He had no timeline for the investigation, and would not speculate on if or when the tape will be made public. He said that any decision to do so would require the approval and cooperation of Harris County District Attorney Patricia Lykos.

-- Officer Eydelmen Mani, who died Wednesday after crashing his patrol car during the chase of a suspected car thief, had not been wearing a seatbelt. McClelland said that, due to the condition of the car, there was no way to tell if a seatbelt would have limited any of his injuries. Preliminary data showed that Mani may have reached speeds around 90 mph, and impact may have occurred at 60 mph.

-- Violent crime dropped during the first four months of the year, as compared to the same period last year. McClelland said that murder and rape decreased 11 percent, while robbery and aggravated assault dipped about 7 percent.

-- A no-refusal DWI sweep will be in effect May 28-May 30.
 
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