Colo. Crime Labs “Inadequate, Potentially Unsafe”

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http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36~53~1579936,00.html

Crime laboratories run by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation are “inadequate and potentially unsafe” as the demand soars for evidence checks, a state audit has found, according to the Denver Post. Conditions have not affected the quality of DNA tests and other work, but some tests are backlogged for so long that prosecutors offer plea agreements to defendants to avoid going to trial without sufficient evidence.

The Post said the audit found most of Colorado’s nearly 1,900 federally licensed firearms dealers are operating with no routine scrutiny from federal or state authorities. Past inspections uncovered many cases of illegal firearms sales, falsified paperwork and mishandled fees. Last year, the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms inspected only 138 licensed dealers. The CBI, which oversees criminal background checks of gun buyers, has done no inspections since 1996.

Bureau director Robert Cantwell said that tips about suspected crimes are investigated immediately. He said inspections are important to identify possible wrongdoing and possible “straw” purchases in which someone buys a gun for someone else as in the Columbine High School shootings, but he does not have the personnel to conduct inspections full time.

The problems are largely due to inadequate resources and to budget reductions stemming from a drop in state revenue. The lab budget was cut about $270,000 to $5.5 million.

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