MPD Receives $500,000 to Screen Rape Kits

MPD Receives $500,000 to Screen Rape Kits

The Memphis Police Department has received a half million dollars to screen rape kits that have sat on the shelf for years.
MEMPHIS, TN – Dating back years—even decades—there are thousands of unscreened sexual assault kits in Memphis and Shelby County.

Many of those kits have been sitting since the 1980’s; now, thanks to a $500,000 grant—the arduous process of screening all those kits can begin.

There are so many unscreened rape kits that Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong couldn’t even take a guess at just how many.

The reason given most frequently for the backlog— is lack of funding.

But, now that MPD has been shown the money—the process of seeking justice for so many sexual assault victims can begin.

“One point one million women are raped each year,” said Vice President Joe Biden in a speech three years ago, “one point one million.”

That’s a big number—creating a major part of the problem—untested rape kits.

“An unspecified number of sexual assault kits are being stored in three different locations within the Memphis Police Department,” Armstrong told localmemphis.com, “many of these have never been submitted for initial screening.”

That’s about to change thanks to a large grant from Tennessee’s Office of Criminal Justice Programs.

“This is a great first step,” said Shelby County District Attorney General, Amy Weirich, “OCJP has just given us a half million dollar gift.”

“This grant will allow us to screen 2,226 sexual assault kits.” Armstrong said.

That’s a start—but nobody really knows how many kits lie dormant.

“We owe these women justice,” said Vice President Biden, “we can start by getting these rape kits off the shelves.”

More than three years ago, Congressman Steve Cohen of Memphis spoke of the backlog.

“The rape kits in Memphis are just piled up and not tested for years, and years, and years.” Cohen said in May of 2010.

While declining to comment of why the kits have built up in the past, Armstrong did say: “This administration has worked tirelessly since 2011 to resolve this issue.”

“To the degree that lack of funding contributes to these delays,” said Memphis Mayor
A C Wharton, “we’ll make sure that’s not the case.”

Moving forward, that must be in some small measure, comfort to the victims.

“There’s still work to be done,” Wharton told localmemphis.com, “but it also shows we’re not going to give up.”

The first step in the process: a blood test; if there’s enough biological material, a DNA test is next.

The goal is to find enough evidence to prosecute.

On Tuesday August 19, 2013 Director Armstrong will ask the city council to accept the $500,000 grant in order to begin immediate screenings.

The hope is to have the initial 2,226 kits completed by the end of next June.

Page: [[$index + 1]]
comments powered by Disqus