Auditor General applauds accreditation commission for requiring police to properly handle untested rape kits

depasquale

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale

HARRISBURG — Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today commended a statewide police accreditation commission for following a recommendation from his 2016 special report on untested rape kits.

The Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association’s Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation Program commissioners now mandates that local law enforcement agencies must comply with the requirements of the Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act (Act 27 of 2015) to qualify for accreditation.

“The commissioners’ action is exactly what I recommended in my September 2016 special report,” DePasquale said in a press release. “I could not be more pleased. Following my recommendations is one important way we can help rape victims find justice.”

To receive accreditation or reaccreditation, agencies must:

  • pick up all rape kits in their jurisdiction within 72 hours,
  • properly store kits that have not yet received consent for testing for up to two years,
  • send kits that have received consent for testing to be tested within 15 days, and
  • annually report its number of backlogged rape kits to the Department of Health (DOH).

DePasquale pointed out that this is not the first recommendation from the report that has been followed: DOH established a memorandum of understanding with Pennsylvania State Police to gather annual backlog data, fulfilling the recommendation for DOH to work more closely with law enforcement associations such as PSP to establish effective communication of Act 27’s requirements. The result was a 108 percent increase in compliance with Act 27’s reporting requirement.

“Now it is time for the General Assembly to step up,” DePasquale said. “The state’s three public crime labs are hurting tremendously for enough resources to handle their caseloads.

“These labs must have additional funding so that they can have enough staff and sufficient technological equipment to make sure these kits are tested in a timely manner. It’s budget season. Let’s talk about finding at least $1.5 million to help clear the backlog and discuss what’s needed to prevent another from occurring.”

DePasquale recently sent letters to all state auditors nationwide encouraging them to become involved in their states’ efforts to ascertain the size of their backlog of untested rape kits and determine what resources are needed to ensure timely testing of those kits.

“We’ve seen positive change in Pennsylvania when it comes to getting these kits tested, partly because I continue to push on this issue,” DePasquale said. “I’d love to see more state auditors become involved in effecting change on this important topic.

“I’ll say it again: One backlogged kit is too many. Rape victims deserve the opportunity to find justice and peace.”