Officials say drug testing lab at Northeast Alabama Community College will have substantial impact on cases

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) -- Northeast Alabama Community College is introducing its Center for Applied Forensics, a drug testing lab that law enforcement officials say will have a substantial impact on many cases.

After law enforcement officials make a drug arrest, they have to get an analyzed lab test of the substance to further the case in the court proceedings. However, officials say that's where there's a problem. "Sometimes we don't get the test back for 18 months, 24 months," DeKalb County Sheriff Jimmy Harris says.

Sheriff's Harris' agency is just one of many dealing with that problem. He says the delay often results in that offender bonding out, getting further hooked, and maybe doing more harm. Officials say it also has other implications on the process.

Now, DeKalb and Jackson Counties have access to Northeast Alabama Community College's Center for Applied Forensics. "The school operates the lab, and it's our personnel that do the testing," Northeast Alabama Community College President David Campbell says, "They've been trained with the TruNarc equipment that's used."

The equipment tests a sample of drugs through a container. Officials take the samples to the center and leave with them the same day, so no drugs are left at the lab. "Part of this whole process is to make sure you have an independent lab that does the testing and that's us," Campbell says.

Officials hope this will help relieve an existing backlog and increase the speed and effectiveness of case analysis, and potential prosecution.

The District Attorney Offices in Jackson and DeKalb Counties partnered with Northeast Alabama Community College to make this new center a reality.