Examiner Editorial: Taxpayers funding crime lab suspect’s retirement

At last count, the District Attorney’s Office had more than 1,000 drug cases it might be forced to dismiss — in addition to the approximately 500 cases already dumped since police Chief George Gascón ordered the crime lab to indefinitely stop drug testing March 9. This unprecedented and costly paralysis of San Francisco’s entire anti-drug enforcement system arose from the discovery of years of alleged narcotics-evidence consumption by 29-year lab technician Deborah Madden.

The Examiner wants to know why Madden, 60, hasn’t been charged by District Attorney Kamala Harris, especially when documents released Wednesday quote her as admitting she consumed cocaine residue left on weighing counters. That would seem enough for the District Attorney’s Office to file charges. The accusations against Madden began surfacing more than four months ago, ample time for a thorough investigation to have been completed.

But instead, Madden was allowed to retire March 1 with a tax-subsidized pension and benefits, even though only the suspicion of her activities was considered damaging enough to shut down The City’s crime lab indefinitely. She now collects $5,485 a month. That’s an annual payout of $65,823 for the rest of her life, not to mention The City’s generous retiree health care.

If Madden is ultimately found guilty, The City can stop contributing its share of her retirement benefits. Meanwhile, drug dealer suspects are going back on the streets each day, due to possible misappropriation of their seized narcotics samples.

In a transcript of Madden’s interview with police inspectors, she claimed she was not afraid of removing cocaine from the drug lab and discrepancies in drug weights were not taken seriously. In fact, she said, drug losses “were laughed at.”

The District Attorney’s Office claims to have not charged Madden with any crime because it’s awaiting the completion of the investigation.

Yet on Feb. 26, Madden admitted to removing drugs from the lab and her admission shut down the facility March 9, allowing hundreds of drug cases to be dismissed or not charged.

As drug dealers get free passes, why isn’t the criminal who’s responsible for their release behind bars?

CrimeeditorialsOpinionSan Francisco

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