The police chief in Springfield, Mo., apologized to sexual assault victims and ordered changes in how the department handles sex crimes cases after a CNN investigation into rape kit destruction highlighted the agency’s practices, which experts called “disturbing,” CNN reports. Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams offered the apology in a video posted on social media and invited victims to contact him if they felt their assaults were “not investigated appropriately.” He said the department will no longer give sex crimes victims a 10-day deadline to respond to investigators or face the closure of their cases.
He said the department would stop giving victims so-called prosecution declination waivers, a practice discouraged by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. CNN found Springfield officers gave victims these forms soon after they reported being assaulted and before investigations were complete, effectively ending cases.
The CNN investigation “Destroyed” reported that 25 law enforcement agencies in 14 states destroyed 400 rape kits tied to cases in which the statutes of limitations were still running or there was no time limit to prosecute. The number is likely higher. CNN surveyed only 207 agencies. Springfield stood out for the variety of investigative mistakes that led to the disposal of evidence and how quickly kits were destroyed. Police in the state’s third largest city discarded 108 rape kits since 2010 while a prosecution was still viable under the law. Of those kits, 75 percent were never tested for DNA. Dozens of untested kits were destroyed within a year after victims reported being assaulted. At the time the cases were reported, there was no statute of limitations on prosecuting forcible rape or forcible sodomy in Missouri. CNN found that Springfield had a practice of pressuring victims and rushing cases to a close. One expert who examined Springfield files decried the practices as “old fashioned” and “horrendous.”