The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has stopped using a particular brand of cocaine field testing kits after more than a decade due to an investigation by one of their detectives which revealed the kits potentially give false positive results.
According to local news outlets in the area, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office issued a notice to all officers to immediately stop using the test kits after a detective learned that multiple over-the-counter medications caused the kits to show a positive reading for cocaine.
JSO officials issued a statement about the matter on Thursday and said they never had any previous reason to suspect any issues with Scott Company Field-Testing Kits and that results from the kits were pre-emptive, that is subject to more thorough lab testing after an arrest had been made.
“Many law enforcement agencies in Northeast Florida and across the country use and have used Scott Company Field-Testing Kits for Cocaine for many years without issue or incident,” a Sheriff’s Office statement said. “These kits were exclusively used as presumptive field tests, not for evidentiary purposes at criminal trials. JSO utilizes other test kits for other controlled substances.”
The Sheriff’s Office immediately informed all legal personnel in the area whose court cases may have been affected by bad results from the Scott Company Field Testing Kits. Prosecutors met with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Wednesday to discuss the implications of what had happened.
“We immediately informed the Public Defender’s Office, Regional Conflict Counsel, the chief judge and local criminal defense bar of this development,” State Attorney’s Office spokesman David Chapman said. “We are conducting a thorough review of cases potentially implicated to determine what actions need to be taken moving forward to address this issue.”
CEO of the Scott Company, Ian Scott issued a press release about the situation on Friday, saying any claims that their tests were faulty were completely false and any media portrayal of the tests as anything but suitable for the purpose they were designed is due to a lack of understanding about how the tests work.
“The implication that our A-2 Scott Cocaine Reagent Cocaine Residue Swab product is ‘faulty’ is inaccurate. The reagent test is not conceived, designed, manufactured, and/or sold in a manner that is deficient, unreliable or inaccurate,” the press release said. “Since its inception in 1974, the chemical reaction that makes the product function as intended has always done and will always do what it is designed to do – to detect the presence of cocaine, within the scope of the laws of chemistry that govern its reactions. While we strive to be fully transparent and respectfully acknowledge the limitations of the laws of chemistry that the product is subject to.”
The press release from the Scott Company went on to explain that their tests utilized reagents that react a certain way when in the presence of certain substances but it’s virtually impossible to test a reagent against everything that could possibly make it react because there are millions and millions of known chemicals. This is why their tests are meant to be used in the field paired with the arresting officer’s judgment and confirmed with further lab analysis later on.
“While presumptive testing is extremely reliable, faster, and less expensive than other methods of testing, it is possible (though unlikely) to receive a false positive result under certain conditions, when certain substances are introduced into the presumptive test,” the press release said. “We strongly advise the individual officer and appropriate agencies to use common sense and evaluate the totality of the circumstances before making an arrest.”
The Scott Company laid out a ten point summary of why false positives for cocaine against a laundry list of random over the counter medications was, in their view, not a scientifically sound approach to calling their tests faulty. They pointed out that there is not a single presumptive field test for cocaine of its kind that would provide a positive result for cocaine and only cocaine. The Scott Company also pointed out that the coatings on many of the medications used for testing could have provided a false positive result.
“Additionally, please note that to date, no litigation, either against us, or involving the use of our products by our clients, has resulted in a decision for the plaintiff,” the press release said.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office had not yet responded to the Scott Company’s claims at the time this article was written. The Scott Company’s website claims their products are used by hundreds of law enforcement agencies nationwide.
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