MPD, council committee: rape kit testing makes progress - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

MPD, council committee: rape kit testing makes progress

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Memphis Police Department made its monthly update on the rape kit backlog to the Memphis City Council public safety committee Thursday morning. (Source: WMC Action News 5) Memphis Police Department made its monthly update on the rape kit backlog to the Memphis City Council public safety committee Thursday morning. (Source: WMC Action News 5)
MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC) - The first wave of untested rape kits sent off for testing have all now been tested.

Memphis Police Department made its monthly update on the rape kit backlog to the Memphis City Council public safety committee Thursday morning.

MPD says land for a facility to store rape kits are ahead of schedule, but a several million dollar funding gap still exists before all kits can be tested.

Serology testing--testing of plasma and other bodily fluids--on the initial wave of 2,226 rape kits is complete. Investigators expect to receive the results of another 400 kits that were sent for further DNA testing within two weeks.

As a result of these initial tests, police say they have launched 145 investigations, 84 of which remain active, 61 of which have been closed. 16 tests identified suspects who have been previously convicted of the crime. In addition, these tests have resulted in 20 indictments, either against persons or DNA profiles. Police say seven of the suspects or victims are dead, while 10 victims declined to participate in the investigation and/or prosecution. Six cases are beyond the statute of limitations. Two kits contained DNA that had deteriorated beyond usability.

"It's really not a lot; we've just started. This is a process that's going to take about five years to complete. The timetable that we've put into place takes into account days off, training, vacation, people calling in sick," Memphis Police Department Deputy Chief Jim Harvey said. "So we've tried to be realistic on the numbers that we looked at, available officers that would be committed to the project, court time, research that has to be done. So probably a five year project and we're just getting started."

Harvey says Memphis police investigators have done a commendable job of completing the testing, at times even having to employ the use of microfilm on kits that the department had identified as already having had some form of testing in the past.

Harvey says some additional grants are helping to fill a funding gap that remains large. The department still needs $3.775 million to pay for testing on all 12,162 rape kits in the backlog.

The city is planning to build a storage facility to house all the backlogged rape kits. Harvey says the process is a week or two ahead of schedule. The bid process is ongoing, and MPD expects to have a finalized bid soon.

City council committee members say they are pleased with the progress MPD is making at this point.

MPD is hosting a training day on August 11, funded by the Joyful Heart Foundation and local organizations. Law enforcement, service providers, victim advocates, and others involved in this type of work will be invited to a morning session from 8 a.m to 1 p.m. while the public will be invited to an afternoon session from 6 to 8 p.m.

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