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Scottsdale’s Got a Brand New Bag

Over the past three years, you’ve probably heard something about Scottsdale and its blood testing machinery.  In fact, in April, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that juries are entitled to hear all relevant evidence pertaining to problems with forensic crime labs and their machinery.  Through it all, the Scottsdale Crime Lab continued to tell the public that it had confidence in the machines that it used to test blood and that the results they obtained were reliable.  Ironically, these same machines were at the center of the case that went before the Arizona Supreme Court.  After the decision was handed down on April 23, 2015, a spokesperson for Scottsdale stated, “We continue to have confidence in our law enforcement partners at the Scottsdale Crime Lab and look forward to resolving these cases.”  After a review of the recent article, “$90K DUI Machine Goes Unused in Scottsdale,” perhaps this outward confidence in the old machines is completely unfounded; a new machine was purchased 8 months prior.

According to The Arizona Republic, the Scottsdale Police Department Crime Lab received a grant last year from the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.  With these funds, the lab bought a brand new gas chromatograph system in September 2014; said grant came from your taxpayer dollars.  Yes, despite the fact that the Scottsdale officials claimed that there was nothing wrong with the machine while it was pending before our Supreme Court, they purchased a new, luxury-model machine.  Additionally, Scottsdale did not employ any blood testing analysts who could even use this machinery for at least six months.  Most alarmingly, in the past year, Scottsdale has cited more than 2000 individuals for DUI, but the crime lab isn’t using their equipment.  Instead, the police are using breath testing devices, which are far less accurate than testing blood for the presence of alcohol, and sending blood samples to other local crime labs for later testing. This is costing taxpayers even more money, creating long delays for defendants, back-logged courts, and many confused and concerned citizens.

We’re left pondering this perplexing scenario: While two supposedly “perfectly good” machines and another brand new one collect dust, who is footing the bill?  The obvious answer is the citizens of Scottsdale, but our justice system is indirectly paying for it, as well.  What do these unused machines actually say about the Scottsdale Crime Lab’s confidence in its equipment?  What does it say about the stewardship of taxpayer dollars?  And what about a fundamental concern: is this safeguarding defendants’ rights?

So do we continue to blindly support this lab and the prosecution department whose leadership has consumed years of taxpayer dollars when it appears they should have replaced the machine all along?  Do we ask for a public hearing to find out how this happened in the first place and seek internal changes?  We should worry that history will repeat itself, as we have seen time and time again.  Our nation is at a crossroads involving forensic sciences as seen in the latest FBI scandal; it is imperative that the citizens of Scottsdale demand greater transparency and quality work product when taxpayer dollars, not to mention freedom and liberty, are at stake.