AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Police: 1,500 sexual assault kits need testing? Meh.

With Atlanta joining cities across the nation such as Detroit and Cleveland that are tackling large numbers of untested rape kits, the response from local cops seems largely a resounding ‘meh.’

As you may recall, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation in June found that Grady Memorial Hospital was holding some 1,500 packages of the evidence, stored in boxes known as rape kits, on the mistaken idea that federal privacy rules blocked their release to police. Grady’s CEO says the hospital is trying to get them in the hands of the proper law enforcement agencies as fast as possible.

Other cities have prepared themselves for this kind of deluge of evidence by forming multi-agency task forces, consulting teams of experts, creating new protocols or hiring additional staff. In Ohio, these efforts have led to hundreds of indictments and DNA matches.

By contrast, Atlanta’s response has been low key. None of the agencies interviewed by the AJC expects the kits to lead to big increases in their caseloads. All expect to process them using existing procedures.

This could be a problem. There is no statewide protocol for deciding which ones to test, which cases to re-open, and how to handle cases where no law enforcement investigation was ever done. And other communities have discovered that deciding what to do with old, untested rape kits is more complicated than they expected.

You can find out why at myAJC.com.

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