New York State Inspector General Ellen N. Biben will change...

New York State Inspector General Ellen N. Biben will change jobs to become executive director of New York State's new Joint Commission on Public Ethics Credit: New York State

The state inspector general has served subpoenas on the Nassau police department, seeking crime lab records going back through 2006, and interviews with several civilian lab employees, law enforcement sources said Tuesday.

The move marked a speedy launch to an investigation by state Inspector General Ellen Biben, appointed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Friday to look into the police crime lab. It was closed Feb. 18 following revelations that high-ranking county police officials may have known about drug testing problems for months and failed to speak up.

Cuomo directed Biben to review the lab's testing "procedures and protocols" in light of compromised test results in several cases.

"We appreciate the seriousness and sensitivity of the allegations, and we will conduct a thorough investigation," Biben said.

Nassau police spokesman Kevin Smith, Katie Grilli-Robles, a spokeswoman for County Executive Edward Mangano, and Kate Gurnett, a spokeswoman for Biben's office, all declined to comment on the subpoenas.

Gary Learned, president of the Nassau Superior Officers Association, which represents the lab supervisors, confirmed the subpoenas had been issued.

"I'm not that concerned," he said, adding that he was not surprised by the move. "We're urging our members to cooperate because we believe no criminal intent will be found."

The police crime laboratory was put on probation in December by a national lab accreditation agency that cited 26 violations. Rice and Mangano closed the lab about two months later, following the revelations about police managers possibly failing to disclose the inaccurate testing.

If an investigation shows police knew evidence was mishandled and did nothing, hundreds of cases could be challenged, and those who hid the information could be prosecuted, lawyers and experts have said.

The subpoenas mark the beginning of what is sure to be a lengthy and thorough investigation, said Ned Benton, director of the Master of Public Administration, Inspector General program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Benton said Biben's office is likely to seek more documents, conduct sworn and informal interviews, and possibly tap independent analysts and consultants.

Biben will likely issue a report, Benton said, that could be a collection of facts or possible findings about flaws in the system with recommendations.

However, Biben would pass on evidence of criminality to a prosecutor as she does not prosecute cases herself, he said.

While Biben has held her post only since January, her office has long been charged with investigating misconduct complaints at accredited state laboratories. It has issued reports on crime labs for the NYPD, State Police and Erie and Monroe counties, according to the office's website.

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