News 5 Guardians

Feb 13, 2013 12:48 PM by Eric Ross

News 5 Guardians: Sexual assault kits not being tested

News 5 uncovers hundreds of sexual assault kits collected are not being sent off for testing.

"We assume evidence is being submitted for testing after a victim comes to law enforcement and goes through the additional traumatic experience of having the evidence collected," House District 43 Representative Frank McNulty said.

He's the author behind House Bill 1020. If passed, it will require police agencies across Colorado to test 100-percent of the sexual assault kits they collect.

"It's disappointing to me that we're not testing these kits and that we're not using that information to put predators behind bars," McNulty said.

Through the Colorado Open Records Act, we requested police agencies across the region provide us statistics showing the number of sexual assault kits collected compared to the number of kits they sent off to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for further testing.

2010-2012:

Fountain PD: 11 out of 30 kits sent of for testing

Teller County: 1 out of 5 kits sent off for testing

Colorado Springs PD: 28-percent of kits sent off for testing

"That (the numbers) are alarming," said Joyce Aubrey, a sexual assault victim who's now an advocate and voice for other victims. "The rape kits of victims who cooperate with the criminal justice and are collected can help police arrest serial rapists."

Each kit collected and sent to CBI for analysis is entered into a national data base called CODIS, which contains the DNA of criminals who have already been through the justice system.

"We would put more bad guys behind bars if we test more kits," McNulty said.

Law enforcement agencies don't necessarily agree.

"I don't believe every kit should be tested," Sgt. Scott Gilbertson with the Fountain Police Department said. "The kits are usually held in our evidence facility while we complete a thorough investigation."

The investigation can be a lengthy process---leaving the rapist home free for the time being.

"If we have an unknown suspect and we have foreign DNA or evidence, it may take 5 or 10 years for something to come up," Sgt. Gilbertson said. "If a suspects DNA is not in CODIS, it may take a while."

Down the road at the Colorado Springs Police Department, Lt. Howard Black says there are other reasons kits aren't being sent off for testing.

"We could be dealing with a case of spousal sexual assault so we know who the individual is," he said.

If it's a question of consent or a case where the victim knew the attacker, the kit is not likely to be sent off. There's also the question of cost with each kit running between $600 and $900.

"The only issue we see (regarding why police aren't testing kits) is cost," McNulty said. "They are going to say it costs too much and can't afford it."


Sgt. Gilbertson disagrees.

"It's not about cost," he said. "It's about the victim."

Both the CSPD and Fountain PD say cost has nothing to do with determining how many kits are shipped off to CBI.

Furthermore, 5 uncovers the cost of the sexual assault test can be reimbursed by the court system and found there is not cost associated with sending the kit to CBI.

"I certainly understand that law enforcement may have reasons for not testing a kit," McNulty said. "However, it should be very, very rare."

As McNulty's bill moves through the legislature, advocates like Joyce Aubrey will be keeping a keen eye out to see what happens next.

Out of all the open records requests we've obtained, only one police department claims to send 100-percent of its rape kits off for testing.

Pueblo Police Sgt. Eric Gonzales says all of the 229 kits they've collected since 2010 have been sent off to CBI.

Last week, McNulty's bill passed the House Judiciary Committee.

Stay with KOAA.com for the latest updates on House Bill 1020.

 

 

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