Nassau County officials named an expert from the medical examiner’s office as the new, temporary director of the troubled police crime lab and formed an oversight committee to ensure the facility meets a national accreditation agency’s requirements to be taken off of probation.
Dr. Pasquale Buffalino, who served as director of the Department of Forensic Genetics in the Medical Examiner’s Office, replaced the officer in charge of the police lab and the facility was placed under jurisdiction of the county medical examiner. An Accountability and Oversight Committee was also formed to identify solutions needed to improve operations. The efforts come as criminal defense attorneys have begun to question the validity of evidence presented against their clients.
“I’m confident that our focus and direction will result in correcting existing deficiencies, improving day to day operations, and ultimately a state of the art crime laboratory facility,” Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey said.
Committee members include officials appointed by county executive and district attorney, as well as representatives from the police department, Department of Public Works, Office of Information Technology and medical examiner’s office.
“Nothing is more important to the criminal justice system than the integrity of evidence and the fairness of the process, District Attorney Kathleen Rice said. “This move helps immediately ensure both of those pillars will remain intact in days and years ahead.”
The county plans to hire Dr. Peter Pizzola, an independent contractor and 40-year forensic scientist, who will work with Buffalino to implement inter-remedial measures, hire qualified laboratory professionals, establish new policies and protocols, and ensure quality control as a part of a comprehensive overhaul.
County Executive Ed Mangano also wants to move the lab to the County’s Public Safety Center in New Cassel.
Nassau Criminal Courts Bar Association wants evidence evaluated elsewhere until the issues are resolved.