The Spokane Police Department hopes to continue its work investigating the results of previously untested sexual assault kits.
The city is expected to ask the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs to double down on its funding of the effort, which would allow the Spokane Police Department to dedicate more resources to the cause.
Spokane’s review of cases is part of the broader initiative across Washington to test backlogged sexual assault kits, which reached more than 10,000 statewide at its peak, and investigate the results.
The city of Spokane has sent 711 sexual assault kits to the state labs for testing, and the results have steadily trickled back. Commonly referred to as “rape kits,” they consist of physical evidence collected in the hours after a person reports a sexual assault.
There are myriad reasons police may not have submitted a sexual assault kit for testing, but in recent years state legislation has required that all new and backlogged sexual assault kits be submitted to Washington State Patrol labs for testing.
As the results are returned, police have to review them for potential leads in what are often long-cold cases.
The evidence collected in most kits doesn’t result in a match to a sample logged in the federal Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) system, a DNA database, but many do, requiring extra attention from investigators and potentially pointing police to the culprit.
So far, the testing of the city’s backlogged sexual assault kits has resulted in about 90 CODIS matches.
Spokane won a $45,618 grant earlier this year to dedicate a sergeant to reviewing the test results and fund the victim support services of Lutheran Community Services.
The grant paid for up to 100 hours of overtime for the sergeant and detective assigned to the cases, as they work to sort through the test results and determine which are worthy of follow-up from investigators.
The department has steadily worked through the results returned by the state, but the task was more intensive than the city anticipated.
“We have a much more realistic picture of the scope of the work, and it has brought us to the point where we’re applying for additional grant reimbursement dollars to give us the flexibility to get all of this work done and not have to stop because we’re out of funding,” said department spokeswoman Julie Humphreys.
The city plans to request an additional $44,515 in grant funding, which would fund about 640 hours of additional officer overtime – about 20 hours of overtime for both a sergeant and detective each week for the remainder of the program.
At that rate, police estimate they could provide an initial review of about 90% of the CODIS matches by the end of June.
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