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Lack of Training Cited in Report on Flawed Boston Fingerprinting Unit

BOSTON (AP) - An independent study of the Boston Police Department's troubled fingerprinting unit has found its officers were inadequately trained and more interested in maintaining the status quo than superior performance.

The report by Ron Smith & Associates Inc. of Meridian, Miss., concluded the unit could handle property crimes, but lacked the skills needed to investigate violent crime.

"It is our considered opinion that the deficiencies noted during the assessment process were the direct result of a lack of a proper training program within the Boston Police Department and not the fault of employees," the report read.

The report said excellence was not expected or achieved by the unit.

"Maintaining the status quo became (job number one), regardless of what the rest of the forensic identification world was doing," the report said.

The unit's problems surfaced publicly in February, around the time Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole began her tenure and reviewed the wrongful conviction of Stephen Cowans, who was freed in January.

Cowans spent six years in prison after the unit wrongly matched his print with a fingerprint from a glass mug found at a crime scene where an officer was shot and wounded in 1997.

O'Toole has vowed to upgrade the unit to meet accreditation standards.

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