MINNEAPOLIS -- Minneapolis police revealed Friday that the department is sitting on a backlog of 1,700 untested rape kits spanning 30 years, far surpassing the 194 initially reported during a 2015 audit.
During a news conference, chief Medaria Arradondo said he had no explanation for the discrepancy in the reported numbers or why so many kits went untested, but vowed to rectify the number by working with department agencies and advocates to ensure the kits are tested and victims are notified compassionately. The department’s Sexual Assault Unit is still conducting a final count to determine how many kits remain.
“We have a failure in terms of auditing and processing that is unacceptable,” Arradondo said. “I very honestly stand before you to say we still don’t know why that (miscount) did occur back in 2015, but moving forward I can ensure you that it will never happen again.”
Deputy Chief Erick Fors said the untested kits were discovered in July, when the department was doing a accounting of untested rape kits that need to be sent to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension under state law. The kits, he said, are inventoried, sorted and maintained in various locations, and they’re now being physically tallied. He estimates it will likely take two years to get the kits tested. All of them have been properly stored, he said, although some are “restricted,” meaning the victim wasn’t invovled in the investigation or didn’t grant permission for the kit to be tested. The department is now working with the BCA to fund an additional analyst, and more than 60 untested kits have already sent to the agency.
“The culture has changed, and we have an obligation to test these kits,” Fors said. “We’re looking at some periods of time where that philosophy wasn’t applied, and we really see the benefit to have this done. Hopfully this will not only result in people getting justice, but this is a debt that we owe.”
Kenosha Davenport, executive director of the Sexual Violence Center, said the group will work with police and form a committee to map out the most respectful and sensitive way to notify victims of the untested kits. “One of the things that struck a chord with me is the number of individuals touched by this and also what support they’re going to need during this time,” Davenport said. “When you look at the span of someone’s lifetime you know the healing journey isn’t a linear journey, so we have victims who may not have shared with their partner or children, so it’s critical that the notification process is done diligently and with the support of advocates so we can continue to support them on their healing journey.”
The revelation of the untested kits comes one year after the Star Tribune series “Denied Justice” documented widespread failings in the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault in Minnesota, and has spurred a series of changes by police departments and county prosecutors throughout the state.
This is a breaking news update. Come back to Startribune.com for more details. Libor Jany • 612-673-4064
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