UPDATE: DPS says it did communicate with Tempe police about criminologist Kathy Press' misconduct.
PHOENIX - The Tempe Police Department announced Wednesday it has assigned investigators to thoroughly re-examine 30 criminal cases it sent to the state crime lab for DNA testing.
The move comes following a 12 News investigation that revealed a supervising criminologist engaged in misconduct and hid those cases to hide her backlog of DNA testing.
The investigation uncovered that DPS did not tell Tempe PD of criminologist Kathy Press’ misconduct after it conducted an audit on Press’ case files beginning in October 2015. The audit showed she intentionally hid her backlog of cases for years, failed to test DNA submitted in 40 cases by various police departments, failed to complete the reports and kept evidence in those respective cases in her possession without returning it to the evidence section.
DPS gave this statement in response:
“We did in fact keep in touch with Tempe PD when the issue was discovered and with regards to the other agencies we immediately addressed those issues with the agencies.”
DPS did not give dates for when that communication occurred.
We also asked DPS whether a criminal investigation should have been conducted into Kathy Press.
Wednesday, DPS told 12 News, “Our consideration of criminal charges is still being explored.”
During the course of the 12 News investigation, we obtained a list of the 40 cases she hid. Of the 40 cases, 30 were submitted by the Tempe Police Department. The oldest Tempe PD case dated back to 1978. It wasn’t until 12 News notified a spokesperson for Tempe PD that the department learned of the misconduct and how the cases may have been affected.
In an email, Tempe Police Det. Lily Duran wrote, “We appreciate you bringing this information to our attention. We have investigators that will be going thru each case and re-examining thoroughly, however, due to the number it will take some time. We have reached out to DPS and are in communication with them. Thanks again for all of your information.”
Det. Duran later wrote, “It’s very important to make sure that each case was investigated to full extent.”
12 News is working to notify the other departments on the list that submitted DNA evidence. We have also requested all of the case files from the Tempe Police Department to perform our own independent review.
We also have requested the forms each agency submitted in each case to the DPS Crime Lab for scientific analysis, in addition to the lab reports DPS may have generated.
DPS spokesman Raul Garcia called Press' misconduct "reprehensible." Press resigned from the agency May 24, 2016.
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