A national campaign has highlighted the thousands of untested sexual assault kits held by police. Now the Seattle Police Department has pledged to send every sexual assault kit for testing by the state crime lab.
Many police departments around the country say lack of funds prevent their testing for DNA in sexual assault kits. Victim advocates highlighted the 1276 untested kits held in a warehouse by the Seattle Police Department.
SPD Capt. Deanna Nollette said it wasn’t lack of funds that prevented the testing by SPD. Rather, these were cases that didn’t get prosecuted because the victim recanted or failed to stay in contact.
But now SPD has changed course: Nollette said the agency plans to have all remaining kits tested, as well as future kits, and the results entered in a federal database.
Nollette: “Even if we have a case where we have an uncooperative victim, or the issue was consent, what putting that evidence into the database will tell us is if that DNA has shown up in other cases. So there’s potential police value in knowing that.”
It can help investigators identify repeat offenders. Nollette said previously SPD did not want to enter DNA in the database for people who had not been charged with a crime. But she says these DNA profiles do not contain names.
Nollette: “We are not identifying suspects by name in this database, all we are doing is looking for linkages between cases that then will be investigated. Which kind of quashed a lot of our concerns that we had about entering people.”
Nollette said she doesn’t know how long this testing will take, or whether any new prosecutions will result.
Mary Ellen Stone heads the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center. She said she’s “delighted” with SPD’s new policy. Stone said it sends the message to victims that reporting matters – and the numbers of untested kits said the opposite.