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The Honorable Frank Clark
July 31, 2003
Remarks before Senate Judiciary Subcomittee
The Central Police Services (CPS) Laboratory (Erie County, New York) has a staff of 20 technicians with two positions currently unfilled. More than 60% of its 1.8 million yearly budget comes from state and federal grants. Significant cuts in those grants are anticipated.
Proliferation of availability and use of firearms is perhaps our area=s biggest single problem. Shootings in Buffalo during the first six months of this year (1,023) are up almost 30% over the average of the past four years (769). Some of the principal requirements and/or shortcomings in the area are:
In any offense involving the possession or use of a firearm, operability must be established. Since an incarcerated accused is entitled to a preliminary hearing within 72 hours, tests and testimony must conform to that timeline. Over 1000 such requests are made every year.
Further testing, such as matching a bullet or casing to a particular gun can only be done on a priority basis. Many such tests are never performed.
Due to existing backlogs, critical investigative work such as connecting a seized weapon to other shootings is virtually impossible.
There is insufficient staffing to perform tests required to submit basic ballistics information on seized weapons to the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN) which is akin to a DNA database, but for guns.
Ancillary testing such as analyzing clothing for the presence of gunpowder residue to determine if a person fired a weapon or the distance between shooter and victim simply isn=t being done. If a prosecutor desires such evidence, the testing has to be farmed out to private laboratories at considerable expense.
Possession and sale of controlled substances constitutes almost 25% of the 2200 matters referred to the Erie County Grand Jury last year.
New York=s penal statutes and laboratory regulations require that certain tests be performed and in a prescribed manner in order to conform to evidentiary and accreditation standards. Hence, shortcuts are not possible.
The sheer volume of requests precludes any testing on misdemeanor amounts of controlled substances.
New York law requires that suspected narcotics be tested for type of drug, weight and degree of purity, often within the 72 hours required for many preliminary hearings. Since this is often not possible, many cases are dismissed with a release of bail. These cases can be referred directly to a grand jury, but such defendants frequently abscond.
Much necessary equipment is dated or obsolete. For example, our laboratory does not have the capability to analyze date rape drugs such as ecstacy or GHB. We must seek state or federal assistance in these areas, resulting in additional problems due to the inevitable time delays.