After Drug Thefts – Crime Lab Improves Policies to Protect Cases
On February 23, KGVO reported that Derek Thrush, a former chemist at the Montana State Crime Lab in Missoula, had allegedly stolen samples of methamphetamine for his own use.
Since then, the Crime Lab has been reexamining their security protocols and tightening up its policies.
Administrator for the Forensic Science Division, Scott Larson, described the process that drugs in evidence go through for testing.
“If we’re talking about the chemistry section, the sample would be assigned to a specific analyst who would then come to the front evidence section and check out the drug evidence to get back into the laboratory, take the portion that they need for testing, and then reseal the larger evidence and return it to the evidence vault,” said Larson.
Thrush allegedly saved leftover portions of the drug evidence and later ingested them. Larson said Thrush was properly vetted for his position as chemist for the crime lab.
“This employee did go through a background check upon being hired,” he said. “There are many months, six to nine months worth of training before they’re allowed to touch evidence on their own, so there’s one-on-one training with either a supervisor or a designee of that supervisor.”
Larson said the crime lab has offered a choice of options for attorneys litigating cases in which the drug evidence may have been compromised.
“I’m sure there will be many cases that do get dropped, and they choose not to prosecute,” he said. “Other county attorneys may decide to have the sample retested, which is something we’re offering, either to the defense or the prosecution, that we’ll retest any sample from a different analyst.”
Thrush has been charged with three felony counts of criminal possession of dangerous drugs, three misdemeanor charges of theft, and three misdemeanor charges of official misconduct.
The Missoula County Attorney’s office said Thrush is scheduled to make his initial District Court appearance before Judge John Larson on March 22 at 8:30 a.m.