The NYPD has hired private contractors to determine if the biological evidence damaged at the department's storage facilities during Hurricane Sandy is safe to handle. "We've hired a private contractor who specializes in these cases to look at the damaged material and give it what's called a hazardous material rating," Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters outside an Applebee's in East Harlem today. "The evidence could have come in contact with toxic substances, and this will allow us to see how damaged the material is, and whether it's safe for us to handle."

An email to the department's Deputy Commissioner for Public Information regarding the name of the contractor has not yet been returned. The damaged evidence is contained in 5,000 55-gallon cardboard drums labeled "Biological Evidence Containers," which were stored in the NYPD's Erie Basin Auto Pound in Red Hook, and the Kingsland Avenue warehouse in Greenpoint, which suffered flooding from the nearby Superfund site, Newtown Creek.

Kelly said that before the tests are complete, department employee's aren't touching the damaged evidence. "We are in the process of doing an invantory…but this will take time."