A Pinellas County Sheriff's Office Forensic Science Specialist was fired Monday after an investigation revealed she falsified forensic documentation, the sheriff's office said.
According to the Administrative Investigation Division, in November 2021, Specialist Shantele Dixon was assigned two processing requests for two separate criminal cases. The requests consisted of retrieving evidentiary items from the Property and Evidence Division, maintaining an accurate chain of custody, completing evidence processing, and documenting the actions taken in logs, notebooks, and the agency's report writing system.
On November 29, 2021, Dixon retrieved two evidentiary items from the Property and Evidence Division and gave both items to another specialist to complete the processing requests. The sheriff's office says Dixon failed to transfer custody to the other specialist knowing she would be leaving for the day, due to her shift ending.
The other specialist processed one item using the cyanoacrylate (superglue) fuming chamber and M-star, a luminescence dye stain chemical. The second item was processed using the cyanoacrylate fuming chamber and black magnetic powder. Both items, along with the processing request and notes on the processing methods used, were placed in Dixon's secure locker at the Forensic Science Division by the other specialist, the investigation found.
Three days later, Dixon reviewed the items and processing notes. She reprocessed one item using black magnetic power, which resulted in no visible ridge detail and reprocessed the second item using M-star, which resulted in visible ridge detail.
PCSO says Dixon falsely documented in her notebook that she used M-star and an alternative light source on the item that was processed using only black magnetic powder. Dixon also did not note that the other specialist completed some of the processing listed in her notebook.
In the agency's report writing system, Dixon intentionally and knowingly falsified the narratives, stating that she used the cyanoacrylate fuming chamber on November 29, when in fact the other specialist conducted this step in the processing sequence.
Dixon also intentionally and knowingly falsified the narratives by omitting that one item was processed with M-star and the other item was processed with black magnetic powder on the same date. PCSO says on one of the narratives, Dixon intentionally and knowingly falsified the narrative, stating the item was processed with M-star and an alternative light source was used, which the department says was a lie.
Dixon admitted to omitting and falsifying her actions and the actions of the other specialist in her official supplement reports and notebook and did not maintain the chain of custody, which is a violation of both agency policy and procedure and accreditation standards, PCSO says. She also admitted the falsification of the reports could have a negative impact on criminal charges being successfully prosecuted, advising she was "cutting corners."
The Administrative Review Board determined that Specialist Dixon committed these violations and Sheriff Gualtieri fired Dixon effective Monday, April 4, 2022.