Columbia Police Department's Drug Lab Shut Down

Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The drug lab for the Columbia Police Department is currently shut down, after the Fifth Circuit Solicitor raised questions about the work of one of the employees there.

News19 obtained a memo written by Solicitor Dan Johnson dated August 22nd, in which he lays out the sequence of events that led to the lab stopping its work.

In the letter, Johnson said that he learned back on June 16th that there may be "issues with the forensic drug chemistry" of cases prepared by Brenda Frazier at the department's drug analysis laboratory. Johnson says he quickly let Columbia Police Chief William Holbrook know about the concerns. In turn, Holbrook requested a performance analysis of the drug lab.

Here were the conclusions of that review, according to Johnson:

  • The laboratory's standard of operating procedure was issued subsequent to the date analysis was performed. In addition, many of the described procedures did not appear to be consistent with actual laboratory practices.
  • The laboratory's balance program is not grounded in sound quality assurance measures to allow for confidence in reported weight values for physical evidence.
  • The choice of proper sampling an/or sample selection methods may not be familiar to or well understood by Brenda Frazier. Sampling of physical evidence may not have been done in accordance with best practice
  • Storage temperature in the drug laboratory may be unacceptable for storage of drug reference materials and physical evidence. Temperature and lack of ventilation may result in degradation of the physical evidence.
  • Brenda Frazier has significant gaps in her previous training and experience and may not currently possess the knowledge necessary to competently perform drug analysis

After Johnson and Holbrook got the findings of the report, Holbrook shut down the lab's operations on August 21st. For now, drug cases involving the city will be processed by the State Law Enforcement Division's lab. The solicitor's office is currently conducting a case-by-case audit of Frazier's work to determine what to do about the cases she was involved in, including both open and closed cases.

The Columbia Police Department says they are working with the solicitor's office to address all areas of concern.

At this time, News19 has not been able to find out how long Frazier has worked with the police department, and how many tests she has been responsible for.


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