AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

How Grady Memorial Hospital proposes to fix its rape kit problem

Grady Memorial Hospital is floating a proposal to keep sexual assault evidence from languishing for years in its file cabinets by having law enforcement agencies agree to pick it up within 72 hours.

This summer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution discovered that the hospital’s rape crisis center had been locking untested evidence away since 2000. Grady officials claimed that federal patient privacy rules blocked the hospital from giving it over to law enforcement, but the AJC found that many of their patients had given written permission for the hospital to give police the evidence, which is stored in packages known as “rape kits.”

A draft copy of a proposed memorandum of understanding would require “law enforcement in the jurisdiction in which [Grady] is located” – in other words, the Atlanta police department -- to accept the kits regardless of whether it has jurisdiction in the case, “unless another Law Enforcement agency is specifically identified,” it states.

Under state law, all victims are entitled to free evidence collection, even if they don’t want to cooperate with a law enforcement investigation. To preserve their anonymity, these patients can have an identification number assigned to their rape kits in place of their names, the proposal states. If they change their minds, they can contact Grady’s rape crisis center, which would contact police.

Agencies are still mulling the proposal, and it’s unclear whether they will come to an agreement any time soon.

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