Wednesday, August 20, 2014

MPD Push on Rape Kit Backlog Yields Indictments

Posted By on Wed, Aug 20, 2014 at 9:31 AM

Indictments are ready on 22 Memphis rape cases that were part of the city’s backlog of untested sexual assault kits.

  • Harvey
Memphis Police Department [MPD] Deputy Chief Jim Harvey said some of those indictments are on known suspects, and some of them are on DNA profiles of unknown suspects collected from the kits.

Harvey delivered the news Tuesday during the monthly update on the sexual assault kit backlog to the Memphis City Council’s public safety committee. Committee chairman Kemp Conrad said he’d like to see more than 22 indictments in these cases. Harvey said, “believe me you’re going to start seeing these numbers grow,” but did not elaborate on a process or a specific timeline.

MPD Director Toney Armstrong added seven investigators to the DNA unit this month, Harvey told the committee. Sixteen permanent investigators are dedicated to the sexual assault backlog project, he said.

So far, 162 sexual assault kit cases have been investigated, Harvey said. Of those, 10 victims and suspects are deceased, eight cases have passed the statue of limitations, two kits yielded insufficient or degraded DNA samples, and in 13 of those cases the victims declined to participate in the investigation.

When council member Janis Fullilove asked Harvey why a victim would refuse to participate, he said he didn’t have the exact information on the 13 victims associated with this investigation.

“I can tell you that normally when they decline to participate, they’ve moved on with their lives,” Harvey said. “They’ve married or it’s just not something they want to go back into or they may have moved to another state.”

Training has also been a big part of the push to investigate the sexual assault kits, Harvey said. The city’s cross functional team, a group assembled to eliminate the backlog, hosted a training day session attended by more than 100 local law enforcement officers. The sessions focused on victim behavior, DNA, forensic analysis, and more.

More training all be offered in the future, Harvey said, on using the Rape Crisis Center and on human sex trafficking.

“We’re at a point now where we’re not so swamped with work that we can’t send our investigators to training,” he said. “And we’re trying to the training in place as soon as possible.”

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