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Supporting States to Test Sexual Assault Evidence

Gerald LaPorte; Juliet Rolando; Kim Murga; Matthew Gamette; Jay Henry

April 2018

Crime laboratory and law enforcement personnel from three states discuss the value the NIJ-FBI Sexual Assault Kit Partnership to test sexual assault evidence and obtain investigatory leads.

During this partnership, NIJ is working with the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, to test eligible kits from law enforcement agencies and laboratories across the country and develop best practices that can improve the quality and speed of sexual assault kit processing. 

Juliet Rolando: The FBI-NIJ Sexual Assault Kit Partnership is a partnership to collaborate on testing un-submitted, untested sexual assault kits from around the country, and so through this partnership the FBI lab is receiving weekly submissions, hundreds of submissions a month, to try to tackle this problem of backlogged kits.

Gerald LaPorte: So the FBI-NIJ partnership has been just an immense success for us. What we're hearing at least from the folks that have been taking advantage of the service is that it's been invaluable.

Kim Murga: It was in September of 2014. We submitted request to become involved in the National Institute of Justice/FBI partnership program to have sexual assault kits tested from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department in an effort to establish nationwide protocols and procedures with best practices. By the end of this year, we'll have tested about 550 of those 6500 kits that need to be tested. So as we rapidly move through this process and this project, we expect the number of CODIS entries and subsequent codex hits to continue to increase as we really gain momentum.

Matthew Gamette: It's worked out very, very well for us. It's nice to be able to send them to a laboratory the quality that the FBI laboratory is so that we can be assured that the data is being interpreted correctly, that all the quality operations are assured, and the FBI laboratory has done a fantastic job about getting those kits processed and turned around and the data that is helpful to those investigations back to those agencies so that they can further their investigations.

Gerald LaPorte: If the FBI does 160 for us, that means we can work on 160 in the meantime, so 160 turns into 320, and so this cumulative effect of testing these kits just has a huge impact on some agencies. Other agencies simply don't even have enough resources to even handle testing old cases. Getting investigative support, and so any little thing can help.

Juliet Rolando: The way we used to operate was we would do chemical tests for the presence of semen on all rape kit swabs before we did any DNA analysis. Now we're skipping that, going right to the DNA, which makes the process a lot faster, and we can do a microscopic sperm search from the DNA extraction process and the DNA analysis part. So it's ... That streamlined it. We're still doing the serology analysis, but it's in the DNA testing part of it.

Jay Henry: The way we approach sexual assault investigation in Utah is changing completely. We're about a third of the way through our submitted test kits. Out of that, I think we've generated approximately 78, 80 hits. We're solving so many cases that it's really gonna keep them busy for a long time.

Gerald LaPorte: The decisions that we've been making, the resources that are being made available to jurisdictions all over the country, are having an impact. There's no greater satisfaction in your job than when you leave at the end of the day and that's making a difference.

Date Created: August 30, 2019