A Kentucky State Police initiative will use $1.5 million in federal grants to build a new program to more thoroughly investigate adult sex crime, reports the Lexington Herald Leader.
Gov. Andy Beshear says the sole mission of this initiative “will be to investigate sex crimes with a focus on cold cases where the testing of older rape kits or new DNA gives the possibility for justice where hope has most likely been lost.”
In Kentucky, when an adult reports sexual assault in an emergency room, healthcare personnel are required to complete a rape kit, which is a sexual assault forensic exam that gathers DNA evidence and documenting any injuries to preserve.
Police use this evidence to track down perpetrators.
The U.S. Department of Justice grant money will pay for three specially trained sexual assault investors and a criminal intelligence analyst to staff the new Sexual Assault Kit Investigative team within the Kentucky State Police (KSP).
Beshear says bringing in trained investigators to “focus exclusively on these cases,” “will bring renewed energy to targeting and prosecuting violent sexual offenders.”
KSP’s Victim Advocate Support Services will also assist victims through the investigative and legal justice process, says WSILTV.
Kentucky has struggled to process its growing backlog of sexual assault kits in recent years, just like many other states, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.
End the Backlog says, “it’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of rape kits sit untested in police department and crime lab storage facilities across the country.”
This is what is known as a “rape kit backlog.” End the Backlog cites two main reasons this occurs is either evidence is never sent to the lab or the evidence arrived at the crime lab but was never tested.
Kentucky currently has no untested kits.
According to the Lexington Herald Leader, this is because the General Assembly in 2016 passed the SAFE Act to expedite that effort by requiring the kits to be submitted to the state police lab within 30 days of receipt.
The actual processing of those kits often won’t happen for months.
In Oklahoma, due to lack of manpower and recent laws, are causing a backlog of rape kits, reports Oklahoma News 4.
A 2018 audit found more than 7,000 untested rape kits, some of which were decades old. Now, agencies are trying to process them.
As in Kentucky, a law passed in 2019 gave agencies 20 days to submit rape kids for testing in Oklahoma. While Oklahoma City and Tulsa police process their own, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI), files kits from the rest of the state, and those are adding up.
The OSBI has a new backlog of almost 1,300 untested rape kits, on top of about 3,300 old kits that still need to be processed, reports The Frontier.
In Montana, who is like Kentucky, is focusing on assault kits through using legislation and federal grants to ensure these kits don’t build up, reports KTVH.
According to Montana Department of Justice SAKI coordinator Kayla Bragg, “We have tested a total of 1,260 unsubmitted untested kits.”
Montana has 250 untested kids, according to End the Backlog.
In order to continue their hard work of making sure this backlog will not occur again, as well as solve cold cases using data found from these kits, Beshear says that through this funding, it will “…allows us to continue this important work by ensuring investigators are able to analyze cases and ultimately help identify more offenders and link serial predators,” reports WSILTV.
He also says that it will allow for additional scrutiny of kits that have not yet led to an arrest of a perpetrator, or ones with new DNA, according to the Lexington Herald Leader.
Gabriela Felitto is a TCR Justice Reporting intern