New York, NY – Following the mishandling of a number of rape cases in the Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), as well as the failure to properly report DNA profiles to the State, City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn is pressing the agency to implement a number of key reforms.
“The importance of these reforms cannot be underestimated,” said Speaker 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.”
Specifically, the Speaker calls for OCME to:
• Conduct a Thorough Analysis – 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. OCME must execute a thorough root cause analysis in this instance, as well as in any other cases that have revealed significant failures in the OCME laboratories.
The proposed analysis would include a comprehensive review of management, systems, protocols, quality assurance and quality control and oversight measures in place in a particular lab, and in the office as a whole, in order to assess why errors occurred and to identify weaknesses to prevent future problems. A standing committee created by OCME would be responsible for this assessment.
• Improve Quality Assurance and Quality Control Measures – The quality assurance and quality control measures OCME had in place were inadequate and more stringent measures are necessary. OCME must increase their random case re-analysis, improve proficiency testing, conduct prompt reviews of any identified errors and implement meaningful and immediate corrective action while conducting more systematic reviews of their processes and management.
• Increase Transparency – It is unclear what specific quality assurance and quality control measures are utilized by the office. Furthermore, it is important to keep the public apprised of any audits, reviews and corrective actions of the office. OCME must increase transparency. The office should identify on its website the protocols it follows, as well as any corrective action taken pertaining to this incident and the results of future audits and reviews of its office.
• Improve Training and Education – OCME should improve their training and require continuing education for their lab technicians. OCME should also look at applying rigorous certification requirements to ensure that technicians are prepared for the duties of the office.
• Coordinate with State – A rigorous process must be established ensuring that DNA profiles sent to local and State databases are uploaded promptly.
“The public must have confidence in the accuracy of test results produced by the Medical Examiner’s office. Our emergency oversight hearing will provide a critical review of what happened here and an opportunity to address victims’ concerns,” said Health Committee Chair Maria del Carmen Arroyo.
“I am glad the City Council Health and Women’s Issues Committees were able to convene this hearing today,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras, Chair of the Women’s Issues Committee. “It is imperative that our city pursue justice for every victim of sexual assault and I believe that these proposals will help ensure better oversight of the medical examiner’s office to prevent these sorts of mistakes from occurring again in the future.”
The reforms are presented in advance of the Council’s emergency oversight hearing, which will seek 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. The City Council’s Committees on Health, chaired by Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo and Women’s Issues, chaired by Council Member Julissa Ferreras are jointly convening today’s hearing.