Effort to Clear Rape Kit Backlog Shows Commitment
Kentucky is wrapping up an urgent endeavor in criminal justice, and I want to personally thank the many in law enforcement who have pushed hard over the past few years to achieve this objective.
As of writing this column in August, the Kentucky State Police Forensics Laboratory is in the final phase of clearing the longstanding backlog of sexual assault evidence kits. All 5,000 of the original kits have now been submitted and analyzed, and KSP is completing the final review process on about 2,000.
That’s an incredible milestone that demonstrates the commitment of our law enforcement community to securing justice for victims of these heinous crimes. There are many who deserve applause.
Laura Sudkamp, director of the state forensic lab, and her team, were among the first to recognize that thousands of untested kits were setting on shelves at police facilities. They have remained steadfast amid this daunting challenge and have poured countless hours and energy into addressing the backlog.
The lab was decisive in obtaining a $1.9 million grant from the District Attorney of New York County (DANY) to process untested sexual assault kits. KSP remains on schedule and compliant with the grant, making them one of the first recipients to accomplish that goal.
In addition, law enforcement agencies across the state moved quick to adopt sexual assault response policies in 2016. Every certified agency in the state met the deadline to have a policy in place, helping ensure that all kits would be submitted.
The Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training stepped forward to support and advise agencies on writing the policies and make sure that every agency met all applicable standards. The team at DOCJT was resolute in their determination to get this right and provide local agencies with any necessary resources or expertise.
Meanwhile, Gov. Matt Bevin recognized the need for funding early on. His 2017-18 budget proposal included $4.5 million to expand staffing and resources at the lab, and the Kentucky General Assembly supported the funds in the final spending plan.
I’ve worked in the field of criminal justice for more than two decades, and it’s been rare to see so many people, from so many different agencies and communities, embrace a challenge like this with such speed and commitment.
The hard work is already paying off.
In just one example, prosecutors in Louisville have recently indicted a suspect on a rape charge in a case dating back to 1983. After 35 years, the woman, who is 88, may finally see her attacker brought to justice. We can never forget how much that matters – even after three decades.
Much work remains, particularly in matching the evidence to suspects and prosecuting cases. However, it’s clear that Kentucky’s law enforcement community is dedicated and focused like never before.