I-Team 10 Investigation: Missed opportunities | Crime
A local police chief weighs in on the firing of Monroe County’s crime lab director. Janet Anderson-Seaquist was dismissed Tuesday, just hours after a highly critical report by the state inspector general.
The report found she acted irresponsibly when she ordered DNA evidence to be returned to local police agencies, claiming the cases were no longer able to be prosecuted.
Gates Police Chief David DiCaro says he believes the county executive made the right decision in firing Janet Anderson-Seaquist. He called her missteps significant, and he says her lab’s failure to analyze many DNA samples was, at the very least, a missed opportunity.
Chief DiCaro got a letter from the Monroe County Public Safety Lab declaring it was returning potential forensic evidence that was never analyzed, he says he was unsettled.
Chief David DiCaro said, “It was alarming. I was concerned and disappointed about it."
Gates was one of many local police departments that were told their evidence would not be tested by the lab because the cases were beyond the statute of limitations. But a review by the district attorney’s office found of the 270 cases in question, 41 were not time barred including a few from Gates.
On Tuesday, the state inspector general issued a scathing report saying crime lab director Janet Anderson-Seaquist and a top member of her staff made their determination without consulting any legal experts and called her actions improper and irresponsible.
Chief DiCaro said, "I think it was a significant error because it really impacted what we do and how we would proceed with our job.”
DiCaro says after hearing from the lab, he took a cautious approach and saved the evidence. But according to the report, some other agencies went ahead and discarded their samples, including at least one rape case.
Just hours after the report became public, Anderson-Seaquist was fired. Today, County Executive Maggie Brooks continued to answer questions about the findings in the report.
County Executive Brooks said, “When I read the report, it seemed to me she was not clear and not truthful in some of the answers she gave the state. To me that's grounds for dismissal."
Beyond the decision to label the evidence time barred, DiCaro says he was more unsettled to learn the DNA samples they submitted were never analyzed. He says he assumed many had been tested and the results entered into a database awaiting a match that could break open a case.
Chief DiCaro said, "One of us, one agency out here might have arrested an individual who could have continued to commit crimes because of a case we were able to make based on the evidence we had."
Chief DiCaro says with the county’s help, his police department is now going back and looking at all cases where they currently have evidence at the lab. They want to get a better handle on the statuses of those cases to make sure they get tested and don’t slip through the cracks.
There is no explanation offered by Anderson-Seaquist as to why the crime lab never tested those 270 evidence samples.
However, the inspector general does allude to there being a backlog of cases that required analysis, which is cited as a concern at crime labs in cities everywhere. Plus, many times, the cases are prioritized, and the ones deemed less critical end up falling back in the line.