The woman who ran Columbia’s drug lab has now resigned, a day after news broke that city police chief Skip Holbrook had ordered the lab’s closure over concerns of improperly handled tests that may have wrongly imprisoned some suspects.
The resignation of the Columbia Police Department’s lone drug analyst Brenda Frasier on Monday comes after Fifth Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson began notifying defense attorneys about concerns over the quality of work being done at the lab. In a letter sent last week, Johnson confirmed Columbia Police had shut down the lab and was temporarily sending test results to the State Law Enforcement Division for study.
The State newspaper reports Holbrook said he had ordered the analysis shortly after taking office. The audit conducted last month found that Frazier had gaps in her forensic evidence training which led to mistakes in the handling and storage of sensitive chemicals. The audit suggested that Frazier was either unaware of or ignored standardized procedures that would help ensure the drug test results were accurate.
“At this time, I felt like these deficiencies were insurmountable and we needed to shut down all operations,” Holbrook told reporters in a Monday briefing.
The chief added he had been concerned that drug lab tests were no longer being peer-reviewed by other chemists outside the police department, as industry standards demand. 188 cases had become held up in a backlog since the peer review ended, he said. In all, Frazier had done analysis in a total of 746 cases, Holbrook said.
Holbrook said Frazier was hired as an assistant in late 2011, but began running the lab herself after her superior left just months later. The chief did not explain why Frazier was the only chemist in the lab. Holbrook was sworn into office as chief in April.
Both Holbrook and Johnson said they do not know at this point if the problems led to any potential wrongful convictions.