Guns, fingerprints no longer able to be processed in ND

Evidence bag
Evidence bag(KVLY)
Published: Nov. 19, 2021 at 6:08 PM CST
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Processing firearms and fingerprints is on hold for North Dakota’s criminal cases as the state’s crime lab is facing an extreme staffing shortage, with nearly 20 percent of their employees quitting just this year.

“As you know, in some of our investigations time is an issue to start identifying suspects, putting cases together and trying to get closure for the victim in the case,” Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner said.

For awhile, South Dakota’s lab was helping out with the load, but they’ve since stopped.

Fargo Police say recently, they’ve been sending their prints to a private lab, but that comes with issues, too.

“When an identification is made, we need someone from that lab to ultimately testify in court so there’s the issue of who’s going to pay for that? How is that going to be resolved?” Fargo Police Chief David Zibolski said.

Both FPD and Cass County say they don’t have any cases sitting on the shelf because of the problem, but say it has delayed justice in some.

“It’s not that it impacts the case ultimately, but what it does is take longer for the case to be brought to fruition,” Zibolski said.

“The cases that we’ve had impacted by it, we were able to, with what we found at the scene, to still send those cases forward. I believe that some of the stuff that could have been analyzed at the state crime lab, that no longer can be analyzed, would have potentially helped in those, but we were still able to move forward in those cases,” Jahner said.

A committee has been formed with police chiefs and sheriffs from across the state, as well as the Attorney General in an effort to find solutions to the problem. However, officials say even if people are hired tomorrow, the problem isn’t fixed as evidence techs need a lot of training and accreditation before officially starting which can take months.

“There’s not a lot of quick fixes to this situation, but we’re going to work as hard as we can to get it accomplished,” Zibolski said.

“Not only do we need to look for some of those individuals who are missing from those positions, but how do we retain the ones we have right now,” Jahner said.

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