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Photo: HFSC/Facebook

The director of the Houston Forensic Science Center’s Crime Scene Unit was cleared of accusations he was intoxicated at a crime scene, and sexually harassed an investigator.

The Houston Office of the Inspector General found the allegations unfounded, the HFSC announced in a statement today. However, the agency also plans to make recommended policy changes in response to the July incident.

“We have full confidence in the director of our CSU, whose experience and knowledge benefit HFSC and the citizens of Houston,” said Peter Stout, chief operations officer and vice president of the HFSC. “However, this incident has provided us an opportunity to review our policies to ensure they guarantee the safety and security of our staff, the community and the investigation in which we participate.”

The allegations stemmed back to a CSU response to an officer-involved shooting in the early hours of July 9, 2016.

One CSI at the scene said he/she smelled alcohol on the director. But that CSI was the only one to make that observation, and did not report the allegations at the scene or ask the director to leave. (One other person at the crime scene, set up at 1:30 a.m., said they only smelled hand sanitizer).

A second, female CSI had told investigators that the director had put a pair of gloves in her pocket, which was an action that was “out of character” – and could have been pertinent to the alcohol allegations. However, the woman said she was not offended by the action, and that she did not feel the director was making a sexual advance.

The OIG investigators confirmed through a credit card statement that the director and a colleague had indeed eaten and drank two beers apiece at a local pizza restaurant between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. that night, according to documents released by the city.

“These facts make it impossible to tell whether either (the director or his colleague) was impaired or over the legal limit for alcohol at the scene,” they found. “Therefore, while OIG does not sustain the allegation that (they were) intoxicated or over the legal limit at the scene, OIG recommends that HFSC amend its Drug Free Workplace policy to clarify its expectation about the amount of time that must pass after consumption of alcohol before an investigator is eligible to return to work.”

HFSC is currently reviewing the policy recommendations – including barring “tagalongs” like the director’s colleague (who was a former but not current CSI), and also providing for staffing backup in case of reasons like alcohol consumption.

The CSU in Houston has been at the center of a tug-of-war this year between the Houston police and the HFSC. The unit remains under the direction of the HFSC, which was formed in 2014, in response to systemic problems and abuses stretching back a decade.

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