New York State Inspector General Ellen Biben has been appointed to investigate the troubled Nassau County police crime lab.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday his choice to have Biben review testing procedures and protocols at the lab a day after a judge denied a request by District Attorney Kathleen Rice to have an independent special prosecutor handle the probe.
“We are pleased that Governor Cuomo has demonstrated such swift action and we applaud his decision as a clear sign that he is on the same page with the DA in seeking the absolute truth in this case,” a spokeswoman for Rice said in a statement.
Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto said in a statement that the inspector general’s office has the resources to conduct the review without incurring further taxpayer costs.
County officials closed the crime lab last week after learning police supervisors were aware of the inaccuracies months before a national accrediting agency placed the lab on probation in December.
The narcotics testing section of the lab was closed earlier this month following revelations that it was generating inaccurate measurements in drug cases. Authorities are now retesting all felony drug cases and a sample of each technician’s work involving misdemeanor drug cases.
More than a dozen criminal defense attorneys have filed challenges on behalf of their clients on the grounds that evidence used in their prosecution may have been compromised. More challenges are expected as the review continues.
The inspector general’s office investigates allegations of corruption, fraud, criminal activity and other abuses by state officials and employees.
Nassau County police have also said they are conducting an internal investigation into the root cause. County Comptroller George Maragos announced Wednesday his office is auditing the lab’s contracts and operations as well.
The county formed a committee in December to have the lab overhauled to regain accreditation and put it under the jurisdiction of the medical examiner’s office.
With Associated Press