Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - The State Inspector General’s Office is looking at the possible inappropriate use of SUNY ESF lab equipment by the Syracuse Police Department (SPD).
At issue is a police investigator’s use of equipment, which is not approved for evidence work, in 11 cases, three of which went to trial. The District Attorney’s Office is not commenting pending a possible Inspector General Report. It doesn’t appear though that the cases in question will be overturned.
In one trial the judge wouldn’t allow the investigator to testify, another was called by the defense and in the third he testified to not finding gunshot residue. Still, the idea that a police agency was using unaccredited lab equipment for forensic testing has alarmed a state commission.
“This is demonstrating a pattern of behavior that’s beyond any measure of professionalism,” said Commission of Forensic Science James Murphy.
The Commission on Forensic Science heard from two of its members last week, Onondaga County DA Bill Fitzpatrick and Medical Examiner Kathleen Corrado about the use of SUNY ESF equipment by Syracuse Police.
Police admit to using some of the school’s high tech lab tools for gunshot residue testing and analysis in 11 cases over seven years. The SPD says it was either at the request of the DA’s Office or part of Syracuse Police investigations where the DA’s Office knowingly used it in prosecuting cases.
In a statement to NewsChannel 9, Syracuse Police say: “The SPD is unaware of the existence of any objection by the District Attorney regarding the GSR testing and analysis performed by the SPD in these cases during that time.”
The SPD says all the testing and analysis was done on state-of-the-art equipment and peer reviewed by SUNY ESF research scientists.
“I doubt we knew the details about what he was using it for. I think we knew generally what he was trying to analyze for but in terms of specifics, what the samples were or where they came from, we probably didn't have any specific knowledge about that,” said SUNY ESF President Neil Murphy.
Murphy says ESF was allowing police, like many other local agencies and businesses, to use their equipment, but in this case for research on shooting range samples only. It can’t be used for evidence in a case. The SPD says it has performed no GSR testing or analysis after June 2011. Even though the department has not received a request to appear before the commission, they’re writing to them to request a meeting to fully address the issue.