NASHVILLE — The problem of untested sexual-assault evidence kits in Tennessee isn’t just a Memphis problem, according to a new Tennessee Bureau of Investigation survey of law enforcement agencies across the state.
But it is mostly a Memphis problem.
Of 9,062 untested kits statewide at the time of the survey, 6,942 were collected by the Memphis Police Department — about 77 percent of the total. That’s nearly 18 times as many as the 394 untested kits at the Knoxville Police Department, the second largest number reported.
The state legislature in March directed the TBI to survey police departments and sheriffs’ offices to find the extent of the untested rape-kit problem after advocates for sexual assault victims sought state funding to help Memphis pay to get its backlog tested.
Statewide, 44 police agencies reported a total of 8,384 untested kits, ranging from the 6,942 at MPD to one each at six small departments. And 37 of the 95 county sheriffs’ offices reported a total of 678 untested kits, ranging from 179 at Shelby County Sheriff’s Office to one each at five counties.
Following Memphis were Knoxville’s 394, the Jackson Police Department with 249 untested kits, Metro Nashville Police Department with 200, Shelby County’s 179, Knox County Sheriff’s Office with 126, Hamilton County with 104 and Chattanooga Police Department with 99.
Three university police agencies reported untested kits: the University of Tennessee Knoxville with 18, most collected since 2004; East Tennessee State with four dating to 1998; and Tennessee Tech with three dating to 2006.
Deborah Clubb, executive director of the Memphis Area Women’s Council, said the report also raises questions about the evidence-kit disposal policies of the majority of agencies who reported no untested kits. “Memphis and the other communities still have the opportunity make something out of this forensic material, but it is my belief that kits are thrown away much sooner and with some regularity in some jurisdictions.”
Clubb said advocates will return to the legislature in January to seek state aid for communities to test the evidence for DNA and other samples that might identify suspects.
Other communities in the Memphis area with untested kits are Collierville Police with 28, Millington Police with 15, Germantown with 10, and the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office with five.
Copyright 2014 The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tenn.)
McClatchy-Tribune News Service