Legislation will bring about the reforms necessary to restore the public’s trust in an office that is an essential part of the criminal justice process
Council will also vote to require a two-year pilot for the collection and composting of organic waste
New York, NY- Today, the City Council will vote on legislation to make the City’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) more accountable and transparent – reforms that are necessary for restoring the public’s confidence in an office that is a vital part of the criminal justice process.
In a continued effort to make New York City as green as possible, the Council will also vote to require the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) to conduct a two-year pilot for the collection and composting of organic waste from residences and schools in the city.
Improving Accountability and Transparency in the Office of Chief Medical Examiner to conduct a Root Cause Analysis upon the occurrence of significant events
Following two Council hearings in response to disturbing accounts of mishandling of DNA evidence and other mismanagement within the office, the Council will today vote on two bills which aim to enhance accountability, reporting and transparency mechanisms in the OCME so that incidents like these do not happen again.
The first bill would increase accountability by requiring a committee within OCME to conduct a “root cause analysis” whenever significant errors or incidents occur which affect the accuracy, reliability or integrity of OCME’s reported results of evidence examination and analysis. The analysis will focus on the failure in systems and processes – not on individuals or human error. The committee’s findings will be reported to the Council and the Mayor and – in affected cases – to prosecutors and defense counsel, making the OCME more accountable to oversight bodies and the public.
A second bill will increase the transparency of the office by requiring the OCME to post data on the proficiency of lab workers and other information relating to the procedures and standards used in the DNA Lab. Allowing this information to be public is critical to enabling the criminal justice process to reach the right results which means finding the right perpetrator and bringing justice to victims.
“The bills we will pass today are critical to enabling the criminal justice process to reach the right results, which means finding the right perpetrator, and bringing justice to victims,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is an office deserving of our support, and the Council’s legislation will help to ensure that they are deserving of our trust.”
“Int. No. 1058-A will improve the accountability of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner by requiring the office to conduct a root cause analysis when mistakes are made, taking a hard look at the systems and structures that lead to failures to ensure they never occur again,” said Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo. “I want to thank Speaker Quinn and Council Member Ferreras for their efforts in advancing these two pieces of legislation being considered today which will help us regain confidence in the OCME after recent unfortunate incidents.”
“Ensuring that data on the proficiency of lab workers and other documents relating to procedures used in the DNA lab are available to the public would improve the transparency and accountability of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras. “In addition, making such data public represents a critical step forward by improving transparency in the criminal justice process overall, aiding in the achievement of what every victim deserves—justice. I look forward to the benefits this bill will bring, and I thank Speaker Quinn and Council Member Arroyo for their efforts to bring Int. No. 1051-A and Int. No. 1058-A before the Council today.”
Organic Waste Composting Pilot
DSNY has already initiated a food waste collection pilot, but this bill would ensure that the pilot’s scope and duration is sufficient enough to provide the foundation for a citywide residential composting program.
The pilot will have two distinct collection approaches: collection from households with fewer than nine units and collection from City schools and residential buildings with nine or more units that opt-in to collection – participation for residents would be voluntary.
At its completion, DSNY would be required to issue a report on the results of the pilot, including a plan for implementing a citywide residential organic waste collection program.