Northwest Alabama law enforcement look to open forensics lab

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SHEFFIELD, Ala. (WHNT) – Frustration and concern has led law enforcement in northwest Alabama to explore opening up a forensics office.

Each day, officers across northwest Alabama begin investigating cases involving drug use or possession. Evidence in those cases is typically sent to the state forensics lab in Huntsville.

Sheffield Police Chief Greg Ray says released figures show the Huntsville lab may be as far as 8,000 to 9,000 drug cases behind.

“That`s a lot,” stated Ray. “That doesn`t count the cases coming in every day. If you could reduce that by a third, imagine how much that would speed that up.”

Law enforcement agencies in eight counties are working with the University of North Alabama to develop a narcotics lab. It has the blessing and support of the State Department of Forensics Sciences, but will be funded privately.

They are still looking at different funding options, which could include a membership fee or bail bond fee.

Chief Ray said a lab in the Shoals could keep his officers focused on other duties.

“It`s almost a day trip. When you go over there, you take one or two officers, you drive over, you have to spend time at the lab signing evidence in and out, It`s almost a whole day,” explained Ray.

The private lab would be operated by the University of North Alabama and used as part of their forensic science program.

In the coming weeks, local governments will be asked to adopt a proposal supporting the lab monetarily for three years.

The state legislature is also being asked to support the lab with legislation.