The Springfield Police Department announced they are hosting area law enforcement agencies for the first phase of the SAFE Kits Initiative.
Agencies will bring untested sexual assault kits that were inventoried through the SAFE initiative to the SPD to be sent to private laboratories for testing.
Springfield police chief Paul Williams said in a statement:
“ I’m proud to share that this morning the Springfield Police Department was host to area agencies from around the region in the latest effort of Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s SAFE Kit Initiative, which aims to eliminate the state’s backlog of untested sexual assault kits. Representatives from more than two dozen local agencies dropped off a total of 100 kits at SPD Headquarters. The kits collected will be sent to BODE Laboratory for testing as part of a federal SAKI grant.
This effort comes as a result of a project created by the Attorney General’s SAFE Kit Initiative working group. Last year Attorney General Eric Schmitt visited law enforcement agencies and hospitals around the state and observed the policies and practices in place for the collection and storage of sexual assault kits. After follow-up visits and observation by the chair of the working group, Judge M. Keithley Williams, SPD was selected as the agency to pilot the process.
During the pilot project, and after a review of the backlogged kits held by SPD, 30 of the 232 backlogged kits dating from 1989 – 2015 were selected and sent to BODE for testing in Dec. 2019. We are anxiously awaiting the test results for the kits submitted during the pilot process, to determine the next steps in the related investigations.
We are hopeful the project will continue and expand in order to allow the remaining backlogged kits held by SPD to be submitted for testing. These efforts mark the most recent positive steps undertaken by SPD as we continue to work diligently to identify perpetrators of sexual assaults and hopefully bring long-awaited closure to their victims.”
The chain of custody is being protected by having the 20 other police departments physically bring the kits to the central location of the SPD. The other departments are Branson, Hollister, Monett, Nixa and Republic. Twelve area sheriff’s departments are bringing their kits for testing.
Greene County Sheriff’s Office Captain Marc Staeger told OI that the GCSO was able to submit seven untested kits under the grant.
“Of those, several of the reporting parties would not participate in the investigation and several others the status of the reporting party is unknown,” Staeger said. “We are hoping to get some results back that may assist us in the investigation.”
“When I was sworn in as Attorney General, tackling this backlog of untested sexual assault kits was one of my top priorities, and remains a key focus of this office heading into the new year,” Attorney General Schmitt said in a statement. “Thanks to Judge Williams and her team’s hard work, our exhaustive inventory identified the number of untested sexual assault kits in the state of Missouri, an important step in tackling this issue. Now, with the help of Chief Williams, the Springfield Police Department, and our incredible law enforcement partners across the state, we’re taking a crucial step forward in our fight to bring justice for victims.”
Over 6,000 untested sexual assault kits were found in the state according to a report released by the attorney general in November 2019.