NHC Commissioners to consider funding forensic chemist to handle drug cases

The New Hanover Board of Commissioners will vote Monday on whether or not to fund a forensic chemist position to work for the Wilmington Police Department to assist in expediting high profile drug cases.

The Wilmington Police Department’s forensic lab provides blood alcohol analysis services to 16 local and state law enforcement agencies, primarily in New Hanover and Brunswick Counties. The lab currently staffs one full-time chemist, one part-time chemist, and one part-time forensic technologist, but Attorney Benjamin David has emphasized the pressing need for one more.

In a written request to the board, David said the “addition of the chemist will lead to serious drug offenders being sentenced in a more timely manner, making our community a safer place for our citizens.”

Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous wrote in a proposal that the police department’s lab isn’t staffed to prioritize narcotics testing and pending drug cases for the entire county, which is why he proposes the county fund a full-time forensic chemist to be employed by the lab.

WPD Lab Manager Bethany Pridgen said the chemists handle narcotics cases within the city on a case-by-case basis, but all of the county cases are submitted to the State Bureau of investigations which can take several months before results are materialized.

She said shifting that responsibility to a local level, would not only save time and money, but also prove to be a safety benefit to New Hanover County residents.

“If you have a high-priority offender who potentially is out on bail, and they’re waiting for lab results from the state lab for months to a year, they can continue to re-offense,” Pridgen explained. “By the time they get to that first court date, they may be able to plea out to four offenses instead of just the one charge being taken care of. So, it’s really a safety issue.”

Chief Evangelous concurred with Pridgen.

“Criminal trials can be conducted in a timelier manner, which will result in the incarceration of dangerous offenders. Additionally, offenders being sentenced to the State’s prison system or the Federal prison system would shift the cost of housing those offenders awaiting trial away from local tax payers,” Evangelous wrote.

If approved, the employment agreement will run from January 2015 to the end of June 2018, at which point effectiveness of the position will be evaluated.

The annual cost of the position is $83,459, including the salary, supplies, and the necessary training.

Copyright 2014 WECT. All rights reserved.

Source Article from http://www.wect.com/story/27518109/nhc-commissioners-to-consider-funding-forensic-chemist-to-handle-drug-cases
NHC Commissioners to consider funding forensic chemist to handle drug cases
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