JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley yesterday announced that his Office has received a $2.8 million Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. The Attorney General also announced the final results of the statewide rape kit audit conducted by his office.
The Attorney General’s Office final audit of law enforcement agencies, crime labs, and hospitals identified a total of 5,424 untested sexual assault kits. In conducting this audit, the AGO received information from 372 law enforcement agencies, 87 healthcare providers, and 5 crime labs. These numbers represent the sexual assault evidence kits contained in law enforcement agencies, healthcare providers, and crime labs who voluntarily responded to the Office’s request for information.
“To undergo a sexual assault evidence examination is a brave act,” Hawley said. “No kit should languish untested when its collection requires such courage. My hope is that this grant funding will allow Missouri to test all existing kits and to establish statewide protocols that will prevent any kit from going untested in the future.”
The preliminary report released by the Attorney General’s Office in May indicated that a variety of factors contribute to the volume of untested kits in Missouri. Additionally, the data gathered by the AGO demonstrated that entities across the state do not have consistent practices related to the retention of kits. Statewide, standardized protocols must be created for the collection, retention, and submission of all sexual assault evidence kits in Missouri.
In April, the state legislature gave the Attorney General’s Office authority to apply for the SAKI grant. The grant will help fund testing of those sexual assault evidence kits that currently remain untested. Funding from the grant will also support efforts to standardize collection, retention, and testing protocols across the state. As a condition of the grant, before testing begins, the Office will take additional steps to inventory currently untested kits.
Finally, with this federal funding, the Attorney General’s Office will develop an electronic tracking system for all sexual assault evidence kits that will allow victims and law enforcement to follow a kit from collection through trial. At present, no such system exists. The absence of such a system can prevent victims from following the status of their case. Additionally, a centralized tracking system allows stakeholders to view the number of un-submitted kits across the state at all times.
The Office has convened a working group of stakeholders to develop the tracking system and comprehensive statewide standards related to the handling and processing of sexual assault evidence kits. The first meeting of the working group is scheduled for October 10.
Representatives in the working group come from a variety of backgrounds across the state that include: the Missouri State Highway Patrol crime lab, the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, Missouri Office of Prosecutorial Services, Missouri Hospital Association, St. Louis University Hospital, Mercy Hospital Springfield, Springfield Police Department, County Prosecutors, Victim Advocates, and the Missouri Attorney General’s Office.
Attorney General Hawley is committed to ensuring that every kit in Missouri is tested, consistent with the survivors’ wishes.
SOUCE: news provided by AGO.MO.GOV on October 1, 2018