MSP pulls breath alcohol testing equipment, cites possible vendor fraud

The Michigan State Police announced Monday it is investigating possible fraud by the company that services its breath alcohol testing instruments. The instruments have been taken out of service until each one can be checked for proper calibration.

Until each instrument is inspected, the MSP is recommending police agencies use blood draws instead of breath tests in suspected drunk driving cases.

On January 10, MSP alerted prosecutors and police statewide they discovered possible fraud by a vendor that was supposed to service all 203 Datamaster DMT instruments in the state. The MSP says the vendor's service records are in question.

As of Friday, the MSP has taken over all responsibility to ensure the Datamaster DMTs are certified, calibrated and serviced properly and according to legal and industry standards.

The MSP says there are discrepancies in the vendor's records that makes it appear some certification records were falsified, reports said. The MSP does not believe this affected the results of breath tests.

Col. Joseph Gasper, Director of the Michigan State Police, released a statement about the investigation:

Based on new information learned over the weekend, the Michigan State Police (MSP) is aggressively investigating potential fraud committed by contract employees of Datamaster vendor, Intoximeters, and also moving today to take all 203 Datamaster DMT evidential breath alcohol testing instruments out of service until MSP can inspect and verify each instrument to ensure it is properly calibrated. In the interim period, the MSP recommends that police agencies utilize blood draws rather than breath tests to establish evidence of drunk driving.

On Jan. 10, 2020, the MSP alerted prosecutors and police departments statewide that it had issued a stop order on the current vendor’s contract due to performance-related issues. The vendor, Intoximeters, employs three contract employees who were responsible for servicing all 203 Datamaster DMT instruments in the state, and it is records from these service sessions that are in question. Effective Jan. 10, 2020, fully certified MSP personnel have taken over responsibility for ensuring all Datamaster DMTs are certified, calibrated and serviced according to state law and industry standard.

Review of vendor records in the last two days has yielded additional discrepancies that may point to the potential for a more widespread issue with the way in which some instruments were being serviced. While the discrepancies do not directly impact or deal with the results of evidential breath tests, it is concerning that it appears as though some certification records have been falsified. As a result, the MSP has opened a criminal investigation that is looking into possible forgery of public documents.

To be clear, a properly calibrated and maintained Datamaster DMT is an extremely reliable instrument, which is why issuing the stop order, placing the instruments temporarily out-of-service and assuming responsibility for maintaining all Datamasters in the state is an extreme move that places a burden on all of the state’s law enforcement resources, but it is an absolutely necessary move to safeguard the integrity of the criminal justice process. Upon learning of additional and more egregious discrepancies, I am no longer comfortable having police agencies using these instruments until we can be confident they are certified, calibrated and serviced according to state law and industry standard.

The MSP is still in the process of reviewing vendor records and will be for some time, but possible discrepancies have been identified to-date involving Datamaster instruments at the following locations:

  • Alpena County Sheriff’s Department
  • Beverly Hills Police Department
  • Detroit Detention Center
  • Montcalm County Sheriff’s Department
  • Niles Police Department
  • Pittsfield Township Police Department
  • Tecumseh Police Department
  • Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department

County prosecutors for each of these areas have been notified of the issue and will determine any potential impact on drunk driving cases.

The MSP has been working since mid-2018 to strengthen the state’s breath alcohol testing program by hiring a technical leader in the MSP Forensic Science Division to provide oversight, and it was through this work that these discrepancies were identified.

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