Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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February 24, 2014

Bills seek to tackle backlog of untested rape kits

(Continued)

Memphis, like other cities, is operating on a tight budget. Its police and fire officials haven’t been able to get new training classes due to the city’s strapped finances. But Wharton said he’s determined to get the money needed to address the city’s backlog, even if it means reaching out to philanthropic groups for donations.

“Every day that a sexual assault kit sits untested represents justice delayed,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, a Collierville Republican and chairman of the Council of State Governments, is the sponsor of the inventory measure in Tennessee. He believes there are other municipalities within the state experiencing backlogs.

“We’ve got to quantify the magnitude of this problem,” Norris said. “We know that Memphis has somewhere in excess of 12,000 untested forensic evidence kits, but we need to know how many other local law enforcement authorities may have similar backlogs.”

Another Tennessee proposal would require law enforcement agencies to submit rape kits to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation within 10 days of receipt and that they be analyzed within six months. However, that measure could be costly and is unlikely to pass.

“If the proposal is passed where TBI has to return kits in six months, we would need to double our manpower and require new buildings to accommodate new hires and equipment,” Tate said.

Rep. Antonio Parkinson, a co-sponsor of the TBI proposal, said some type of legislation needs to be passed to address the backlogs because besides rape victims there are individuals who have been falsely accused of rape and need the kits tested to be exonerated.

“They could have been incarcerated while waiting for the evidence to clear them, or maybe they pled down to a lesser charge just to get out of jail,” said the Memphis Democrat.

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