State Inspector General Ellen Biben wrote that “The chronic failures of the Nassau County crime lab deprived Nassau County, the criminal justice system, and the public of their right to have complete and unfettered confidence in forensic testing.”
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said the report “highlights the need for an independent civilian-run crime lab, state accreditation agency reform, and offers a welcome blueprint for returning the necessary credibility to our county’s testing of forensic evidence.”
Her suggestion would bring to an end the inherent conflict of interest in having the Police Department test evidence that is used in court in criminal prosecutions. It still amazes me that the police are so often in charge of the scientific testing of evidence they collect. This practice is by no means unique to Nassau County.
We have previously posted regarding Nassau County’s crime lab problems. As time goes by the full extent of County government incompetence is being revealed. According to the report, the lab suffered from “weak leadership, a dysfunctional quality management system, analysts with inconsistent training and qualifications, and outdated and incomplete testing procedures.”
The Police Department, former County Executive Thomas Souzzi, and current District Attorney Kathleen Rice were all held responsible for the lab’s failures.
The costs of retesting evidence are currently running at about $100,000 per month. DA Rice claimed the costs would be borne by the police forfeiture fund, in order “not to burden the taxpayer.” She neglected to consider that those funds “derive from taxpayer-funded law enforcement, arise from crimes committed against society and are to be used for the public good.” It is worth reading the full Newsday editorial that was published in April regarding this issue.