The Nassau County police crime lab in Mineola.

The Nassau County police crime lab in Mineola. Credit: Nassau County Police Department

Just when you think the news from the Nassau police crime laboratory can't get any worse, it does.

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced last week that her office will expand retesting of drug evidence handled by the lab. An ongoing review of the lab by State Inspector General Ellen Biben indicates evidence in misdemeanor cases may have been cross-contaminated. When equipment is not properly cleaned between tests, residue from a prior sample can make a new sample test positive.

The mostly police-staffed lab was placed on probation by a national accrediting agency last December, then shuttered on Feb. 18 because samples were being mishandled and mislabeled, lab workers poorly trained and standard procedures ignored.

Retests were ordered for evidence in felony cases going back several years, and are being conducted at a private Pennsylvania lab at a cost of $100,000 per month.

Now, Rice has ordered retests of some misdemeanor evidence, and hundreds, if not thousands, of closed cases could be questioned. The money for all the retesting is coming from the Nassau County Police Department's state and federal drug forfeiture funds, which are normally used to enhance police investigations, do gun buybacks, provide training and fund a youth academy.

Biben's investigation of the lab, once concluded, should sort out the cause of the problems, but it won't help with the still-rising cost of the problems. hN