Police Chemist in Whistleblower Case Awarded $175,000

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A former police chemist in St. Louis, Missouri is being awarded $175,000 for her whistleblower claims alleging that she was fired for speaking up about drug testing errors in the crime lab. According to St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the jury handed down the verdict after five hours of deliberation.

I’m a scientist,” the whistleblower said to St. Louis Post-Dispatch. If the reports are in error, they should be corrected, because people’s lives are affected by it.” The former police chemist had been an employee for 25 years. She stated that she had no ill-will towards the department but wanted to prevent future errors and clear her name.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the whistleblower complained multiple times about a drug testing error for two criminal cases in 2008. She reported that a fellow chemist failed to detect the presence of benzylpiperazine, or BZP, a component of the drug Ecstasy. It was alleged that her 2010 firing was the result of retaliatory actions by the department for revealing its “dirty laundry”.

Attorneys for the police department argued otherwise, alleging that the whistleblower was fired for disobeying orders. It was argued that she went outside her chain of command when she worked on a fatal arson case after being told that drug cases were a priority and had a 24-hour turnaround time on drug tests. This was simply a pretext for firing the whistleblower, one of her attorneys said.

Officials have concluded that the whistleblower was correct about the drug testing errors, and testified that she was reported to internal affairs for claiming that the colleague manipulated the results; a review determined that the colleague had been following protocols at the time.

The whistleblower said that she carried the arson case to another unit and held a flashlight as it was inspected. One of her attorneys argued that “it doesn’t make a lot of sense” for her to be fired over 10 minutes of work. He cited a series of emails and meetings showing that officials were worried about the drug testing errors.

The whistleblower had called for a method of detecting BZP, which the department has since adopted.