In light of revelations that the Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) mishandled numerous rape cases, the City Council Friday called on the agency to reform its procedures.
It was discovered recently that more than 800 rape cases may have been wrongly handled by the OCME, leading to inaccurate reports that damaged the criminal justice process.
"The importance of these reforms cannot be underestimated," said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. "Without proper policies and protocols, a troubling lack of oversight and review will continue. If these reforms are not implemented, the risk of future errors increases each and every day. This is simply not a risk the City can allow."
Quinn called for a thorough "root cause analysis" to determine why any errors at all have occurred within the OCME laboratories. "While OCME has reviewed the DNA cases at issue, it has failed to conduct a thorough review to ascertain why these problems occurred in the first place," Quinn said.
A standing committee created by the OCME should review management, systems, protocols, quality assurance and quality controls and oversight measures in place in a particular lab, as well as in the office as a whole, she continued.
Quinn called the quality assurance and quality control measures the OCME had in place "inadequate" and said more stringent measures are necessary. "It is unclear what specific quality assurance and quality control measures are utilized by the office," she said.
She noted the agency must increase transparency and identify on its website the protocols it follows, as well as any actions being taken to address these issues, incidents that might arise in the future and the results of future office audits and reviews.
The OCME should also improve its training and require continuing education for its lab technicians, she said. "OCME should also look at applying rigorous certification requirements to ensure that technicians are prepared for the duties of the office," she said.
The reforms were presented in conjunction with the Council’s emergency oversight hearing, which sought to learn why a technician in the OCME was allowed to continue to make serious errors for a number of years, how the OCME has reviewed the cases at issue and what types of quality assurance and control measures are in place to ensure this does not happen again.