ProPublica and the Las Vegas Review-Journal are hosting a public forum on Feb. 16 entitled Unreliable and Unchallenged: The Way Forward for Police Drug Kits in Las Vegas.

The free event is based on a recent ProPublica investigation about how the Las Vegas criminal justice system uses $2 roadside drug kits, known as chemical field tests, to jail thousands of people annually — years after the city’s police crime lab flagged them for producing false positives.

Featuring voices from the front lines of this issue, the discussion will explain how chemical field tests came into widespread use in Las Vegas, why judges continue to effectively allow them as criminal evidence, the severe personal consequences of false-positive test results, and the challenges that local defense attorneys and lawmakers are mounting against how the kits are used.

Speakers include:

  • Judge Joe Bonaventure, Chief Judge of the Las Vegas Justice Court
  • Laurie Diefenbach, Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice committee member
  • Amy Albritton, victim of a wrongful conviction in Houston, Tex., where the tests are also used
  • Ryan Gabrielson, ProPublica reporter (moderator)

Details:

  • Thursday, Feb. 16 | 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. PST
  • University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Greenspun Hall Auditorium, Maryland Parkway and University Road
  • RSVP Here

Chemical field tests are commonly performed during traffic and pedestrian stops by placing a small sample of a suspected drug in a pouch. If the chemicals turn a specific color, illegal substances may be present. In his piece for ProPublica, in partnership with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Gabrielson uncovered that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department crime lab has for years known the shortcomings of chemical field tests — the likelihood that they produced false positives, as well as the need to abandon them. Yet the tests remain in wide use. In 2015, the LVMPD made some 5,000 arrests for drug offenses, and the local courts churned out 4,600 drug convictions, with nearly three-quarters of them relying on field test results.

For more information on this event, contact Cynthia Gordy at cynthia.gordy@propublica.org or 917-703-1242.