KC, Independence police working on backlog of untested sexual assault kits

Published: Sep. 14, 2022 at 7:36 PM CDT
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JACKSON COUNTY, Mo. (KCTV) - Two police departments in the Kansas City area had the most untested sexual assault kits in Missouri despite major progress being made around the state.

Over the last couple of years, the State Attorney General has tried to address the staggering backlog untested rape kits with the SAFE Kit Initiative.

According to the AG’s August report, Kansas City Police Department had 190 untested kits and the Independence Police Department had 156.

“Initially, my thought is - without knowing anything else - ‘Why are we higher than everybody else?’” said Jack Taylor, Public Information Officer for the Independence Police Department.

It was well-documented in the AG’s August report that there is an issue in Missouri, and across the country, with untested sexual assault kits collecting dust in rooms within places like hospitals and law enforcement agencies.

The AG’s report said there were more than 1,500 untested kits in the state of Missouri, with the Kansas City area making up a third of that amount.

We reached out to both KCPD and the Independence Police Department about their high numbers.

Taylor, with the IPD, said there is a reason for the number in the report.

“A lot of times, victims will come in and they won’t report to the officers that anything had happened, and the hospital will go ahead and do the kit just in case. Or, they do the kit and then they change their mind and decide they don’t want to prosecute or something to that effect,” Taylor explained.

Taylor said he believes those kits are supposed to be categorized a certain way at the hospital; separate from reported kits with active victims. But instead, they weren’t. So, the department would end up collecting them all.

“What it looks like is: There are a lot of open cases that aren’t investigated,” Taylor explained. “But in fact, there really is no data in that case. We just had to open that case to have a number to associate.”

Taylor said those cases are now going to a private company contracted by the AG’s office for testing.

The Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department said they also worked with the AG’s office in August to ship all 190 of their untested kits.

The KCPD said that, just like Independence, their 190 kits were reported. However, for various reasons, a detective or prosecutor did not request testing for the lab.

They said reasons why kit testing is not requested include:

  • Evidence would not impact the investigation
  • Beyond the statute of limitations
  • Prosecutor decision/guidance
  • The victim’s wishes/guidance
  • Referred to juvenile court
  • The victim was unavailable

The KCPD has their own crime labs to process kits.

They said the Police Foundation of Kansas City provided the department with $340,000 earlier this year to purchase robots utilized in the DNA testing process. They believe that will help reduce the backlog of kits waiting to be tested.

The police departments for both Kansas City and Independence said they are devoted to processing sexual evidence.

“The cases that we do have victims and we need to look for suspects, those are the cases that are getting sent to the Missouri Highway Patrol lab,” Taylor said.

Both departments also mentioned that part of the reason the KC metro might have higher numbers or a backlog in general is because of the large population.

In that AG report, the third highest number of untested kits was the Saint Louis County Police Department with 79.

Previous coverage:

Missouri AG ships 300 sexual assault kits from KCPD for testing