A Louisville state senator has proposed requiring police departments to submit rape kits to the state testing lab within 30 days of receiving them.
Victims would also be notified of the testing progress. The backlog rape kits tests were the subject of a critical state audit last year.
Louisville Democratic Sen. Denise Harper Angel said the bill is “absolutely necessary.”
“Any victim of rape needs to know and deserves to know that their test is going to be tested and we have to get criminals off the streets,” Harper Angel said.
The bill would also forbid anyone from destroying rape kits.
The kits include hair, fingernail scrapings and biological evidence from a victim’s body that can be tested for DNA. Rape kit exams are usually conducted at hospitals, logged into law enforcement agencies’ property evidence rooms and then may be sent to the Kentucky State Police Forensic Laboratory.
Last year, Harper Angel sponsored a bill that directed then-state Auditor Adam Edelen to investigate how many rape kits were sitting untested in local law enforcement agencies and the state forensic lab.
Edelen identified 3,090 untested rape kits in the state and estimated that it took about eight months for a kit to be tested once it was submitted to the state lab.
Some kits were gathering dust in the local police evidence rooms as the result of “confusing communications” from the state forensic laboratory, according to a report from Edelen’s office. The auditor also said that limited resources and recruitment and retention of lab employees had contributed to the long turnaround time.
In addition to requiring the state lab to test rape kits within 30 days of receipt, Harper Angel’s bill would require local law enforcement to pick up the kits within five days of evidence being gathered. The state forensic lab would have 60 days to test kits.
The bill would also set aside $5 million from the Kentucky Law Enforcement Foundation Program to purchase lab equipment and process kits.
“We as lawmakers need to do everything we can to protect the public and to get criminals off the streets,” Harper Angel said.
According to the auditor’s report, 41 percent of law enforcement agencies don’t submit all rape kits to the state forensic office.
No law requires law enforcement agencies to submit rape kits to the state forensic lab for analysis.
Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said he hadn’t read the bill yet, but complimented Harper Angel’s attention to the issue. He said he’s unconcerned that the bill is being championed by a member of the other political party.
“I think her legislation was a good piece of legislation last year. And as we’ve done in the past, we don’t care about the sponsor on these issues we agree with,” Stivers said. “We’ll look at it, see what she’s talking about and get her thoughts on it and we’ll move it accordingly.”