Misconduct alleged at Cheney Crime Lab
Washington State Patrol investigators are looking into allegations the former manager of the Cheney Crime Laboratory mishandled and misrepresented work on case files stretching back possibly five years or more.
A statement from the WSP on Tuesday indicated investigators knew of at least five cases that had been mishandled. Kevin Fortney, the crime lab manager, resigned during the Patrol’s investigation, which began back in January and is ongoing.
WSP spokesman Robert Calkins said he didn’t know if any cases from the Cheney Police Department or other area law enforcement agencies were involved. The five known cases are all old.
“We’re talking two years, three years, five years perhaps,” Calkins said.
The investigation began when lab technicians working for Fortney raised concerns to the Crime Laboratory Division commander. No other crime lab employees appear to be implicated in the misconduct.
The State Patrol is stressing no wrongful convictions have stemmed from the mishandled cases. Calkins said it’s more of a situation where cases were simply not worked on, but officials were led to believe progress was being made by Fortney when he was working as a front-line lab scientist.
“This is about work that went undone, and not work that was done poorly,” Calkins said.
State Patrol officials are contacting local prosecutors and law enforcement agencies that submitted cases identified by the investigators. The Washington State Forensic Investigations Council and the Washington State Prosecutors were notified of the investigation, as was the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors and the Laboratory Accreditation Board, the Patrol said in a news release.
Calkins said an investigative team from Seattle is due in Cheney later this week to begin a more thorough investigation, and that there may be more than five cases affected. No timeframe was given for when more results might be revealed.
“We do the work we need to do to get the information we’re seeking,” Calkins said.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.