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Sheriff's office crime lab gains national accreditation

crimelab

Chemists work to analyze cocaine samples at the sheriff’s office crime lab on Wednesday afternoon.

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Tyler Stocks

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The quality of evidence and how quickly it is processed can make or break a case and the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office now is better prepared that ensure that high-quality evidence moves along in the system so justice can be served.

The Sheriff’s Office Forensic Services Unit became nationally accredited on June 23, joining an elite group of accredited crime labs nationwide.

Only a few sheriff’s offices in the state have this accreditation, according to the American National Standards Institute website.

Pitt County District Attorney Faris Dixon said this enhanced level of evidence processing from the sheriff’s office will serve the community well and help prosecutors and defense attorneys in court.

“It does help us in that we can certainly be confident in what we present to the defense and to the jury and to the court,” Dixon said.

“It will allow us to move our cases a little bit quicker and more expeditiously to serve the victims but also to allow the defendants to get their time in court much quicker,” Dixon said. “I’m very proud of (the lab) and I appreciate the work that the sheriff is doing. It serves the community and our law enforcement community together.”

The accreditation process, which lasted more than three years, involved an evaluation of the laboratory’s management system, technical procedures, laboratory practices, personnel qualifications, quality assurance program and laboratory facilities, according to a news release issued on Wednesday morning.

“This has been a unique team effort with part-time as well as full-time employees,” Lt. Ken Ross said. “They have contributed a lot of man-hours and what makes me so proud about it is during the process of accreditation we still maintained our everyday standard of providing a level of service to our other judicial districts in Pitt County and other agencies as well.”

The lab, located at the Pitt County Detention Center, has several sections including evidence control, the crime scene unit, the chemistry section and the latent fingerprinting unit.

Ross provided a tour of the lab to members of the media, showing off how employees tested drugs in the chemistry section and operated the fingerprinting and DWI blood testing units.

Det. Sgt. Wallace Moore, who oversees the daily operations of the lab, said the accreditation will serve the public well.

“This is a standard that is held by all professional forensic labs that put themselves out there and invite external people in to check your work,” Moore said. “The public has not only our word and our integrity but they also know that someone who is not linked to this agency is looking over our shoulder.

“It’s all about the quality and being tested on your quality by people who are going to objectively look at your stuff based upon what everybody else across the whole nation is doing,” Moore said.

The accreditation is granted by the American National Standards Institute/ANAB National Accreditation Board. The program is based on internationally recognized guidelines for testing laboratories and supplemented by requirements specific to forensic laboratories.

To achieve accreditation, Pitt County’s forensic services unit had to demonstrate that it met or exceeded the highest established standards for forensic laboratories.

The Pitt County Sheriff’s office believes that this accreditation is one of the most important tools for ensuring quality, reliability and overall scientific best practices, according to the news release.

“The men and women in the forensic services unit should be commended for their hard work and dedication in completing this momentous task,” the release said.

“We’re very unique out here,” Ross said. “(The accreditation) gives us stabilization within the laboratory and competency in the disciplines in which we provide to the judicial system.

“It’s been a long journey,” he said.

Dixon said that his office works side by side with law enforcement and having a state-of-the-art crime lab like this makes a difference.

“For the people of Pitt County, (the accreditation is) a great honor for both the sheriff’s office but also for our community,” Dixon said.

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