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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mistakes in fingerprint analysis trigger review of nearly 1,000 LAPD cases

Los Angeles Police Department fingerprint examiners who falsely implicated at least two people in crimes have been linked to nearly 1,000 other criminal cases that authorities say must now be reviewed to ensure that similar errors weren't made.

Nearly two dozen of those cases are awaiting trial in the Los Angeles court system, said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for Dist. Atty Steve Cooley.

Prosecutors began a review of the cases as part of their work with a multi-agency task force formed by Chief William J. Bratton last fall in the wake of a Times article that revealed that six print analysts with the LAPD latent print section had made critical errors in their work.

"Our goal is to go through all of [the cases] within about three months, starting with the D.A.'s priorities," LAPD Deputy Chief Charlie Beck said. Even though the review focuses on the work of the six analysts, Beck said LAPD officials would conduct random sample tests for the entire latent print unit.

The LAPD's effort to reform the unit, however, has moved slowly because of a lack of funding. Beck said the department has not secured the $400,000 to $500,000 in grants it sought to bring in an outside firm to review practices and protocols of the 80-person fingerprint unit. He said he is determined to move forward with the help of prosecutors and other law enforcement agencies. [Mark Godsey]

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