By Sam Poe
Tuesday, March 25, 2014 | 11:03 AM
|Investigator Wes Brown shows the Spectroscopy.||Sheriff Rick Harris at the recent gun auction|
The Winston County Sheriff's Department, along with several other organizations within the county, recently took a huge step forward in the War on Drugs in Winston County. Many times after a suspect is arrested for a drug offense, there is a long delay before the trial begins. This is because the products seized during the arrest must be sent to the Alabama Forensic Science Lab in Huntsville for testing to confirm whether or not the substance is a narcotic. This particular lab covers more than thirty counties across the state, and the average wait time for drug analysis is over two years. This means the defendant cannot begin the trial process until the confirmation is received.
The Winston County Sheriff's Department, Haleyville Police Department, Double Springs Police Department, Arley Police Department, and the Marion/Winston Counties District Attorney's Office have combined resources to purchase a Centice MLF 3000 Raman Spectroscopy. This device can be used in the field to determine not only if the substance obtained is a narcotic, but to correctly identify the type of narcotic. Once the drug is tested, the device prints out the report, and officers can insert the report directly into the suspect's file. The information obtained can be used immediately for the arrest and to speed up the trial process, sometimes as quickly as weeks after the arrest rather than years. If a defendant chooses to let the case go through a full trial, rather than accepting a plea bargain or taking part in the Winston County Drug Court, the substance would be sent to the Forensics Lab for further analysis.
The Spectroscopy will cost approximately $13,000 overall. However, it is expected to recoup its value in a very short period of time by speeding up trial, reducing overtime of officers for delayed court appearances, and reducing the transportation expenses of officers taking and retrieving information from the Forensics Lab. Winston County will be the first county in the state to purchase this exact piece of equipment.
Although the value of the device is evident, the area departments purchased the equipment with money received during a recent gun sale. Each department contributed confiscated weapons to an auction and earned the following profits from the event, according to the number and value of the weapons contributed: Arley PD-$6,303.00, Haleyville PD-$3,434.00, and WCSD-$9,197.00. The total amount of the sale was $18,934.00, after the 15% auction fee of $3.341.00. The Sheriff's Department has pledged $10,000 toward the Spectroscopy, and the other agencies will contribute equally.
County law enforcement officials will receive training from the manufacturer soon, and the device will be readily available for use throughout Winston County. Sheriff Rick Harris stated, "Many agencies will be looking at the results of our efforts in this bold initiative. The Winston County Sheriff's Office is very proud to be a part of this cooperative venture among participating agencies in our area attempting to invest in another tool to combat the drug problem in our county."