Joyful Heart in the News

SPD Leaves most Rape Kit Evidence on the Shelf

Nov. 25, 2014
King 5 News
Linda Byron

When someone reports a rape, a nurse or other trained medical professional typically administers a sexual assault kit, often referred to as a "rape kit," at a hospital or clinic to collect evidence from the victim and send it to police.

That kit can provide crucial DNA evidence for catching and prosecuting sex offenders. Yet in Seattle, as in many cities across the country, the majority of rape kits are never tested.

"We have a standard of having tested kits in charged cases," said Sgt. Sean Whitcomb of the Seattle Police Department. "If a case has not been charged for any reason, we typically will not have that kit tested."

The Seattle Police Department's records show that in a little over a decade, 1,641 rape kits were booked into evidence. But only 365 of kits were tested, just 22% of the total.

Whitcomb defends that percentage, saying the police department must balance the need for DNA evidence with the potential damage to people who are innocent.

"We don't want to be putting the DNA of uncharged people into a federal database. It really boils down to, when you've got a charged case you've met a certain threshold, you've done a follow up investigation, you've got a real need to have that evidence in court," Whitcomb said.

SPD's Special Victims Section reviewed the department's rape kit testing protocols three years ago and according to an August 2011 internal report authored by Captain Ron Mochizuki, concluded: "We do not see a need for increased SAK (sexual assault kit) testing for our investigative purposes."


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