FRANKFORT — Kentucky State Police officials said a resolution that advanced to the full House on Monday will help the agency erase its backlog of about 350 untested rape kits and identify thousands of other kits that were never submitted for testing.
Laura Sudkamp, director of KSP's laboratory system, said state police have a nine-month backlog of sexual assault kits that has slowed prosecutions in some cases. In addition, state police officials have said there might be as many as 2,000 to 5,000 untested sexual assault examination kits sitting on shelves in police stations and prosecutors' offices across the state.
Federal grants could allow state police to hire more workers in its labs to test the kits, Sudkamp said, but lawmakers first need to authorize a study to determine exactly how many rape kits have not been sent by local law enforcement agencies to the state police forensic laboratory for testing.
On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved Senate Joint Resolution 20, which directs state Auditor Adam Edelen to determine the number of untested kits and deliver a report to the Legislative Research Commission by Nov. 1.
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The resolution, sponsored by Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville, has undergone a series of changes as it moved through the legislative process.
Harper Angel originally proposed having Edelen's office conduct the study, but the Senate-approved version of the resolution directed state police to determine the number of untested kits.
The House committee restored the original version Monday, with House Judiciary chairman John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, saying Edelen was on board with the change.
Edelen said in a telephone interview that he signed off on the original measure because it was "a terrific idea, much needed."
He said he later learned that the survey would cost about $60,000. Although Edelen's office has the ability to bill agencies for its work, the Senate changed the bill to allow state police to do its own survey after the fiscal impact became clear, he said.
Edelen said he eventually found a way for his office to conduct the rape kit survey by not filling a vacant non-merit position. That removed the problem with the legislation's cost, he said.
Under the legislation, local law-enforcement agencies would have to report to Edelen by Sept. 1 on how many untested kits they have in their possession.
Rape kits include biological samples and physical evidence gathered from sexual assault victims that are later processed to see whether they match a suspect's DNA. Each costs about $1,000.
According to a 2010 study by the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, about 20 percent of Kentucky women — compared to about 18 percent nationwide — have been raped. About 48 percent — compared to about 45 percent nationwide — have experienced other forms of sexual violence.
The association is a coalition of Kentucky's 13 regional rape crisis centers.
If the full House approves the resolution, it would have to return to the Senate for consideration of the House committee's change.