The Massachusetts State Police have opened a new lab to analyze suspected criminal drug samples seized by police agencies throughout western Massachusetts.
The new drug lab with $500,000 in state-of-the-art equipment is located in Springfield. The five civilian chemists who work there will perform drug identification and certification in about 150 cases a month for police agencies in all four western Massachusetts counties, according to Col. Timothy Alben, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police.
"This will be a very busy facility as we ratchet up the operation."
Criminal drug testing for police departments in western Massachusetts was previously done at a crime lab in Amherst operated by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. It closed two years ago after an analyst was arrested for stealing cocaine she was supposed to be testing. A scandal where a chemist falsified test results led to the closing in 2012 of the state drug lab in Boston.
"In August 2012 I said we would fix the procedures, fix the policies, get the right people in place, and under the umbrella of the state police. I am honored to say this is another step in that entire process."
Alben said the new drug lab in Springfield employs all the systems and safeguards recommended in a report by the Massachusetts Inspector General on the Boston drug lab scandal.
" I am confident we have the leadership,the policies and now the international accreditation to address all those concerns."
Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan praised the new drug lab. He said several drug cases were sabotaged as a result of the misconduct in the Amherst lab.
" This restores the integrity of the state lab system. The Massachusetts State Police have always had very high standards."
Hampden District Attorney James Orenstein said the new lab will expedite trials and reduce travel time and expenses for police and lab workers who must testify at trials.
" We also have the confidence that the people who will be working here will be of the utmost professionalism and competence so we can full reliability with respect to their results."
The new drug lab in Springfield has a backlog of about 180 cases as a result of the closing of the Amherst lab that resulted in police having to send evidence to a lab in Worcester for analysis.
Alben said the drug lab is a new addition to a 14,000- square foot state police facility in Springfield that includes a ballistics lab, fingerprint analysis, DNA testing, and other crime scene investigations.
The Springfield lab is one of nine satellites of the central state police crime lab in Sudbury.