I’ve written about the “rape kit backlog” before; as a quirk summary, police departments are letting rape kits languish for decades, despite how easy they are to process and how effective they are at securing convictions.
Testing by Cleveland-area prosecutors linked more than 200 alleged serial rapists to 600 assaults. Statewide, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s effort to collect and test sexual assault kits has resulted in at least 2,285 CODIS hits so far.
In Houston, analysis of about 6,600 untested rape kits resulted in about 850 matches, 29 prosecutions and six convictions.
And, since the Colorado Bureau of Investigation began requiring police statewide to submit sexual assault kits for testing last year, more than 150 matches have been found.
But back then, I never thought of the dark side of the rape test backlog.
As scrutiny of disregarded rape kits mounted, a portrait of a more difficult to tally sort emerged – rape kits police destroyed. As with the rape kit backlog, there is no national tally of the kits police destroyed. But increasingly, local media have published reports of police destroying rape kits in states as disparate as Utah, Kentucky and Colorado. […]
In 2013, in Aurora, Colorado, police department workers derailed a prosecution when they destroyed a rape kit from a 2009 assault. The error was discovered when a detective got a hit on an offender DNA profile, went to pick up the rape kit and was told it no longer existed. Shortly thereafter, police stopped all evidence destruction while they investigated, and found workers destroyed evidence in 48 rape cases between 2011 and 2013.
In Salt Lake City, 222 of the 942 kits collected between 2004 and 2014 were destroyed. Of those, just 59 were tested and went to court.
In Hamilton County, Tennessee, sheriff’s employees destroyed rape kits with marijuana and cocaine from drug busts, angering the local prosecutor who said he wasn’t consulted.
In Kentucky, the state auditor discovered some police departments routinely destroyed rape kits after a year, even though the state had no statute of limitations for rape. The perpetrators could have been prosecuted as long as they were alive.
There was so little value placed on those kits, despite their track record of landing convictions, that the experts responsible for handling them saw no problem in their casual destruction. Criminals are allowed to walk freely, because the police bought into common myths about sexual assault.
It’s one more slice of rape culture.