In 2012, ABC7 reporter Keli Rabon conducted an investigation to determine the number of untested rape kits in the greater Denver area. The investigation uncovered hundreds of untested kits.
Among the findings, Rabon learned that the Denver Police Department tested only 56 percent of the 1,064 rape kits collected there since 2008. The Fort Collins Police Department, about an hour north of Denver, tested just 28 percent of the 243 kits collected there since 2007. Jefferson County had tested only 36 percent of the 117 rape kits collected in the last five years.
Throughout the investigation, police officials stated that it was unnecessary to test all rape kits. Within a week of ABC7 breaking the story, however, the Fort Collins Police Department decided to change its policy to test all rape kits.
In February 2013, State Representative Frank McNulty introduced legislation that would require all law enforcement agencies to inventory any untested kits associated with “active” criminal investigations in their storage facilities and send them for testing. Governor John Hickenlooper signed the bill into law on June 5, 2013, and it went into effect immediately, making Colorado the third state to require the testing of every rape kit booked into evidence.
Within 90 days of the law’s effective date, each law enforcement agency was to submit its inventory. Within 120 days, the agencies were to send the kits identified in the inventory to a lab for testing, and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was to present a plan to the Governor and state legislature for analyzing all of the submitted kits. Going forward, law enforcement agencies must submit kits to a crime lab within 21 days of collection. The law also allocated nearly $7 million for processing untested rape kits across the state.
In the month’s following the law’s enactment, police departments from across the state submitted inventories indicating a statewide total of 6,283 previously untested kits, including 1,212 in Colorado Springs, 998 in Denver, 416 in Aurora and 366 in Greeley. As of the September 5, 2013 deadline, 35 departments had yet to submit their numbers. Two months later, 32 departments' numbers were still outstanding.
Advocates expressed concerns that the statewide total may represent only a fraction of the state’s untested rape kits due to the law’s requirements being limited to “active” cases. They said the limitation left the requirements open to interpretation by individual departments.
In fact, CALL7 recently reported that despite the law, thousands of backlogged kits may continue to go untested. Colorado's Department of Public Safety, which was tasked with creating rules to implement the law, never defined "active." Instead, discretion as to which kits will be tested remains with individual law enforcement agencies, and CBI plans to test just 40% of the kits submitted pursuant to the law.
As of June 2014, CBI had sent the first batch of 175 kits to four different labs for analysis. Once the results returned from those kits, the Bureau planned to begin sending larger batches of kits for analysis.
Testing on 300 kits was completed as of September 2014. From those kits, there were 30 matches to known offender profiles in the national DNA database.
Learn more about Colorado's reforms and read about its efforts in the media here.