MORE BAD BREATH TESTING IN HOUSTON

MORE BAD BREATH TESTING IN HOUSTON

Grits for Breakfast
Welcome to Texas justice: You might beat the rap, but you won’t beat the ride.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Paycheck vs. Integrity: Houston PD lab supervisor resigns over faulty breathalyzers, feared retaliation

Yet another bombshell out of the Houston crime lab, as reported over the weekend in the Houston Chronicle (“HPD crime lab faces more heat,” July 29), this time regarding breath-alcohol tests. The story opens:

Under intense scrutiny for shoddy work during the past decade, the Houston Police Department crime lab faced renewed criticism Thursday when a former HPD lab supervisor dropped a bombshell, testifying she quit because she could not trust the accuracy of breath alcohol tests from the department’s testing vans.

Amanda Culbertson said electrical problems including overheating in HPD’s six breath alcohol testing vans were well-documented before she and another supervisor quit. The vans are used as satellite offices for Houston police officers to give breath tests to suspected drunk drivers.

“We could no longer choose between a paycheck and our integrity,” Culbertson said during a hearing in a DWI case in court-at-law judge Pam Derbyshire’s court.

Culbertson, who resigned in May, said she and another supervisor quit because they could not trust the integrity of the results they use to prosecute cases.

Culbertson testified they feared retaliation from Irma Rios, HPD’s crime lab director, for disciplining officers and civilian technicians who did not follow strict rules to keep breath-test machines from overheating and measuring alcohol levels inaccurately.

Rios did not respond to calls for comment. The revelations from Culbertson follow recent reports by the Houston Chronicle about thousands of rape kits sitting untested in the HPD property room.