According to a report released by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) in September 2014, there are more than 9,000 untested rape kits at law enforcement agencies statewide, some dating back 30 years. Nearly 7,000 of the untested kits are in Memphis. The Bureau had previously estimated there to be a backlog of approximately 20,000 untested kits across the state.
A recently enacted bill, Senate Bill 1426, required law enforcement agencies to conduct an inventory of the untested rape kits in their custody and report the number to TBI by July 1, 2014. TBI was then to report the total number of untested kits to the legislature by September 1, 2014.
State Representative Antonio Parkinson introduced additional legislation in January 2014, which would have gone a step further and required all Tennessee law enforcement agencies to count and submit the previously untested rape kits in their custody to a crime lab for testing within six months of the law's effective date. As to newly collected rape kits, law enforcement agencies would have been required to send them to the crime lab for testing within 10 business days of receipt. The crime lab would then have six months to process that evidence. This proposed legislation did not pass as the state's budget failed to include any funding for rape kit testing.
As we have seen in the three states—Colorado, Illinois and Texas—that have enacted similar legislation, such reforms allow us to move closer to ending the backlog. This can happen in Tennessee, too. Take action today to advocate for transparency and change from our elected officials.
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In addition to what we know about the backlog in Memphis, there is also information about the backlog from other jurisdictions in the state.
The Knoxville Police Department had the second highest total with 394 untested kits. Nashville, which had previously acknowledged a backlog of 338 kits, reported getting that number down to 200.
WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News reported in June 2014 that the Jackson Police Department had 426 rape kits in storage, some dating back to 1998. Of those 426 kits, the Department had tested just 177.
The Shelby County Sheriff's Office reported in April 2014 that it had approximately 314 untested rape kits in its custody. The Office had requested $75,000 from the County in its fiscal year 2015 budget to process those kits. The Office reported 179 untested kits to TBI as of September 2014.
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