Sexual Assault Policy Deadline Dec. 1
An investigation into the backlog of untested rape kits in 2015 led to passage of Senate Bill 63 earlier this year, after more than 3,000 untested kits were discovered and extensive efforts were made to ease the crisis.
Among those efforts was a mandate in SB 63 that all Kentucky law enforcement agencies establish written policies and procedures for the investigation of sexual assault, as well as handling of the resulting evidence. The Department of Criminal Justice Training has been appointed by the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet as the approving authority for these policies.
“In the past, policies directing how sexual assault kit evidence and investigations should be handled were sparse among law enforcement agencies, and those who did have policies often had informal ones,” said DOCJT Commissioner Mark Filburn. “We have provided three versions of model policies to help our client agencies create sexual assault policies that meet their needs as well as meet the standards set by the legislature.”
All law enforcement agencies are statutorily required to have an approved policy in place before Jan. 1, 2017. To allow DOCJT time to approve all policies, each agency should submit its proposed policy no later than Dec. 1. Any agency failing to adopt an approved policy by Jan. 1 will forfeit eligibility to receive officer stipends from the Kentucky Law Enforcement Foundation Program Fund.
SB 63 outlined specific guidelines that each policy should include. These requirements are that:
- all evidence collected as a result of a sexual assault exam must be taken into custody by the investigating law enforcement agency within five days of notice from the hospital or facility that collected the evidence.
- any evidence received by an agency relating to an incident that occurred outside its jurisdiction must be transferred to a department within the appropriate jurisdiction within 10 days of evidence receipt.
- all evidence received by a law enforcement agency must be delivered to the Kentucky State Police crime lab within 30 days of receipt.
- any suspect standard DNA available also should be delivered to the KSP crime lab along with the sexual assault kit evidence.
- a process should be put in place for notifying the victim of their evidence testing’s progress, whether a DNA match was made and if the evidence is to be destroyed. A provision for delaying notice also can be made until a suspect is apprehended or the prosecuting commonwealth’s attorney consents to the notification.
- “Our staff is prepared to assist any law enforcement agency as they work to meet this mandate,” Filburn said. “Please contact our Staff Services office by phone or email if they can help in any way.”
Filburn directed all law enforcement executives to visit the DOCJT website. Several documents are available there to assist with policy creation, along with Staff Services contact information. A cover letter from DOCJT’s Assistant General Counsel, Deaidra Douglas, provides direction along with a link to SB 63, instructions for adopting a policy, a signature sheet for agency heads to sign verifying they approve their submitted policy and three, editable model policy samples.
Senate Bill 63 provided $4.5 million to the KSP crime lab to fix the backlog and provide necessary resources to prevent such a gap in justice from occurring in the future. The bill dictates that by July 1, 2018 the average completion rate for classification of sexual assault evidence not exceed 90 days. By July 1, 2020, that average completion rate should not exceed 60 days.
At the time of Gov. Matt Bevin’s ceremonial signing of SB 63, KSP Commissioner Rick Sanders lauded the efforts made to provide resources to the forensic lab and justice to sexual assault victims.
“Thanks to Sen. Harper Angel, champion behind SB 63, Sen. Westerfield, Gov. Bevin and the General Assembly, KSP is now getting much needed resources to eliminate the rape kit backlog and meet the growing demands of forensic testing,” Sanders said. “KSP is committed to utilizing all resources possible to assist victims of sexual assault crimes by bringing to justice those who commit these heinous acts.”
Staff services can be reached at DOCJT.ModelPolicy@ky.gov or (859) 622-5049.