TBI Receives Grant Money for Testing Unprocessed Sexual Assault Kits

Friday, September 11, 2015 | 09:21am

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has received a grant of $976,420 from the New York District Attorney’s (DANY) Sexual Assault Kit Backlog Elimination Program. The money will be used to process 1,400 sexual assault kits that were accounted for after a 2014 bill required an inventory of unprocessed kits stored by law enforcement agencies across the state. The DANY grant money was funded through an asset forfeiture case handled by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and ear-marked to address the backlog of sexual assault kits from all over the country.

The 2014 bill required every law enforcement agency in Tennessee to inventory all unprocessed sexual assault kits in their possession. That inventory found that 9,065 kits had not been submitted to TBI for analysis. The city of Memphis had approximately 6,945 of those unprocessed kits. The TBI is part of a 20-member multi-agency task force formed to reduce that caseload. Memphis has subsequently applied for and received grants to reduce that city’s backlog, and today was also awarded $1,995,000 from the DANY grant and an additional grant of $1,909,124 from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The DANY grant awarded to the TBI today will cover the costs of using a private vendor to process 1,400 of the remaining untested 2,120 sexual assault kits throughout the state. The remaining 720 untested kits will be processed through conventional casework submission.

“This grant money represents a faster path toward justice for those victims who have had their cases linger while waiting for sexual assault kits to be processed,” says TBI Director Mark Gwyn.

The grant calls for a “forklift” approach in processing the untested kits, meaning that all 1,400 kits will be sent to out-sourced labs for testing. The results of the labs’ tests are then returned to the TBI for technical and administrative review of each case. The results of each kit will be reviewed by two separate TBI Forensic Scientists. If the evidence tests positive during screening and a DNA profile can be developed, it will be entered into CODIS, a database of genetic profiles of convicted offenders, arrestees and unknowns, to check for potential matches.

“We are grateful to the General Assembly for providing the funding that allows us to hire three additional Forensic Scientists,” says Dan Royse, Assistant Director of the Forensic Division. “These additional scientists will be critical not only in providing the technical and administrative review of these kits; they will also help off-set an ever-increasing caseload.”

Starting July 1st this year, sexual assault kits have to be submitted for processing within 60 days of being collected.