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The longtime manager of the San Diego Police Department’s crime lab no longer works for the department.
Her departure is the latest in a series of major changes in the lab following revelations that leadership lowered testing standards for certain rape kits.
Jennifer Shen’s last day as SDPD’s crime lab manager was Dec. 30. SDPD had previously not indicated what her role or employment status was after it transferred Capt. Stephanie Rose to be the lab’s new commanding officer following Voice of San Diego’s reporting on the department’s handling of rape kits.
“Jennifer Shen is no longer employed with the San Diego Police Department,” wrote Lt. Shawn Takeuchi, an SDPD spokesman, in an emailed statement. “Her roles and responsibilities as the San Diego Police Department crime laboratory manager have been reassigned to Captain Rose along with other crime lab personnel who have ensured continued operation of the Crime Lab.”
The department would not comment on the nature of her departure.
“All I can comment is that her employment ended on 12-30-19,” Takeuchi wrote.
Rose took over the lab on Oct. 5, two weeks after Voice of San Diego first reported the lab’s leadership had directed criminalists to test some rape kits from the department’s backlog of untested kits under less rigorous procedures. The untested kits had been a years-long source of controversy. The department argued against testing them before succumbing to mounting pressure from local, state and federal officials. Later, Voice of San Diego also revealed that the department instituted policies that resulted in fewer DNA profiles from kits in the backlog being uploaded to a federal database used to identify rape suspects and link cases.
Rose is the first sworn officer to lead the crime lab in at least 20 years.
Five crime lab sources also confirmed to Voice of San Diego that Shen had not been present in the crime lab since mid-October. SDPD would not confirm whether that was the case, or the reason for her absence.
In November, when Voice of San Diego reported Rose’s transfer to the crime lab, Takeuchi said no other personnel changes had been made.
The leadership change wasn’t SDPD’s only response to the crime lab scandal.
District Attorney Summer Stephan blasted the department for its rape kit policy, and urged it to join an existing effort in which all of the county’s other law enforcement entities send their untested rape kits to third-party labs for testing.
The next day, Chief David Nisleit took Stephan up on her request, announcing the department would send all of its remaining untested rape kits to private labs for testing, and that it would no longer apply different testing procedures to certain rape kits.
After arguing for years that there was no value in testing the roughly 2,000 untested rape kits in its possession, SDPD eventually began testing certain kits due to pressure from elected decision-makers.
When it did, it immediately started finding potential investigative leads in the kits it had previously argued had no investigative value.
From late 2017 to November 2018, the department screened 313 backlogged kits, 121 of which yielded a viable DNA profile that was uploaded to the federal DNA database. Of those, 38 profiles matched a DNA record that was already in the database, generating a potential investigative lead.
The department was unable to provide records for kits tested after November 2018, when it stopped tracking results from kits that were part of the untested backlog separately from all other rape kits.