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Mass. State Police to Process Prints For Boston PD; Scathing Review Prompts Shift

By Suzanne Smalley, Boston Globe
Boston police will be relying on the State Police fingerprint lab to process vital evidence, even though the state agency is one of only 16 nationwide not certified by the American Society of Crime Lab Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board to do such work.

The fingerprinting work for Boston was shifted to State Police in the aftermath of the blistering criticism last week of the Boston fingerprinting lab by an outside consultant retained by Police Commissioner Kathleen M. O'Toole.

O'Toole hired forensic consultant Ron Smith to examine the lab following the wrongful conviction of Stephan Cowans of Roxbury, who spent six years in prison for the 1997 shooting of Officer Gregory Gallagher.

Analysts in the Boston fingerprint unit wrongly matched Cowans's print with one from a glass mug found at the crime scene in Egleston Square.

O'Toole said she retained Smith in an effort to upgrade the Boston fingerprint laboratory so it can receive certification, but contended she is not concerned that the State Police lack the same credential.

"Certification is something that is our ultimate goal," O'Toole said. "I know that the State Police are working toward that now. ASCLD certification is the gold standard, not the industry standard, so that's of no concern to me."

But Ralph Keaton, the executive director of ASCLD/Lab, said the State Police should work toward accreditation, a status achieved by state police agencies in 34 states.

"I certainly would encourage them to get that lab accredited," Keaton said of the Massachusetts State Police. "I think it does a lab good to go through the process and put together practices and procedures required by accreditation to ensure a level of quality."

The Globe published an interview with O'Toole on Thursday in which she said the State Police would be processing crime scene fingerprints from all pending cases and comparing them with those on file until the problems in the Boston lab are addressed.

A State Police spokesman, Sergeant Scott Range, disputed O'Toole's contention that all Boston cases have been verified by the State Police since February.

"To date, we have only verified earlier findings on a handful of cases at the request of Commissioner Kathleen M. O'Toole," Range said in a statement yesterday.

Boston Police Superintendent Paul Joyce confirmed yesterday that State Police have verified only a handful of cases.

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