Many of the nation's forensic laboratories are accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board. This designation means that the labs have met or exceeded various standards of performance. And these facilities must be inspected periodically by ASCLD/LAB in order to maintain that accreditation.
It was after one of these accreditation inspections that the Nassau County forensic evidence bureau in New York was the subject of a scathing ASCLD/LAB report, which detailed more than two dozen areas of non-compliance with accreditation standards. Of these, 15 were considered "essential" areas, while another ten were classified as "important." Some of the deficiencies that were identified in the report included failures to mark and store evidence correctly, maintain the instruments and equipment, keep records, and adequately secure the lab.
But here's the worst part: the Nassau County Police Department hid the 2012 report for several months. The department failed to notify the county executive, the district attorney, or any county official about the ASCLD/LAB's findings. It wasn't until February of 2011 that the report came to light and the bureau was finally shut down.
To make matters worse, a subsequent investigation that was commissioned by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo revealed more unsettling problems. The state inspector general's report found that the New York State Commission on Forensic Science, which purportedly oversees all of the state's forensic labs, had all but abdicated its responsibility for laboratory testing and accreditation.
The probe also identified other "profound" shortcomings in the Nassau County lab, including inconsistent and outdated testing procedures, inadequately trained analysts, dysfunctional management, and inferior leadership.
Sometimes, a single chemist or lab worker can cause a myriad of difficulties for a forensic evidence facility. But when the problems at a lab are systemic (as in the case of Nassau County), it really calls into question the integrity of the entire criminal justice system in the region that it serves.