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January 14, 2020
The Houston Forensic Science Center has successfully completed an evaluation of its
new facility after an on-site assessment that reviewed and approved steps it had taken
to ensure the validity and integrity of its methods during a recent laboratory move.
The assessment Monday focused primarily on security, evidence handling, instrument
performance and documentation surrounding the move completed in mid-November.
The assessment is required under HFSC’s accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025:2017.
HFSC’s accrediting body, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) National
Accreditation Board, will have to approve the outcome of the onsite assessment, the last
official stamp of approval surrounding the year-long facility move.
“Moving a forensic laboratory is a complex process that requires attention to detail and
a focus on ensuring equipment, evidence and instruments remain operable,” said Dr.
Peter Stout, HFSC’s CEO and president.
“While we are pleased the assessment has been successfully completed, we know we
must always be vigilant and cannot be complacent about our performance,” he added.
Chris Heartsill, the lead assessor, praised HFSC not only for successfully completing the
move, but also for Houston’s progress from once being called “the worst” crime
laboratory in the nation to becoming today one of the best.
“For anybody who’s been in Texas or Houston for some time, you know where you are
compared to where you’ve been,” Mr. Heartsill said. “It’s really an astounding feat.”
HFSC’s quality division director, Erika Ziemak, and her staff helped document the steps
taken to ensure evidence integrity and instrument performance before, during and after
the move.
“We took all necessary precautions to preserve the integrity of our processes and
evidence,” Ms. Ziemak said. “We always value the perspective provided by an external
party. It’s reassuring to know the assessor has found our laboratory is functioning as
HFSC is a local government corporation that provides forensic services to the City of
Houston and other local agencies. HFSC is overseen by a Board of Directors appointed
by the Mayor of Houston and confirmed by the Houston City Council. Its management
structure is designed to be responsive to a 2009 recommendation by the National
Academy of Sciences that called for crime laboratories to be independent of law
enforcement and prosecutorial branches of government.
HFSC operates in seven forensic disciplines.
Ramit Plushnick-Masti
Director of Communications/PIO
713-703-4898 (cell)
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