Local agencies will receive funding for the storage of sexual assault evidence


Local law enforcement was among 53 state agencies that will see extensive storage of sexual assault evidence.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that his office would fund refrigeration units to store evidence from sexual assault investigations.

Ferguson is supplying the new units as part of its Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) — a campaign to improve Washington’s response to sexual assault and end the state’s backlog of rape kits.

According to the Attorney General’s office, it is allocating $177,204.73 from its federal SAKI grant to local law enforcement to purchase these refrigeration units to help ensure that sexual assault evidence, including Proofs that need to be refrigerated, do not expire due to lack of capacity.

The attorney general’s office said it heard from local law enforcement that it was a major need.

“More storage means more evidence can be tested and more crimes can be solved,” Ferguson said. “These resources will bring justice to the survivors.”

This increased storage capacity will help law enforcement comply with a 2020 law, House Bill 2318, which requires evidence of “unreported” sexual assaults to be retained for at least 20 years. This includes a sexual assault kit and any evidence associated with an assault that a victim has not yet reported to law enforcement. An unreported sexual assault kit is taken to a hospital and retained by law enforcement, should a victim choose to file a complaint. Evidence of reported assaults must be kept for 100 years.

In partnership with the Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs, the SAKI team asked local law enforcement to determine how much new cold storage they needed. Fifty-three of the 260 agencies indicated that they will need more storage and will receive reimbursement from the SAKI grant. Forty-one agencies will receive funding in this first round, and another 12 agencies will receive funding in an upcoming second round.

Complete list of agencies receiving new units;

  • Aberdeen Police Department
  • Airway Heights Police Department
  • Asotin Police Department
  • Black Diamond Police Department
  • Blaine Police Department
  • Bonney Lake Police Department
  • Bothell Police Department
  • Brier Police Department
  • Camas Police Station
  • Castle Rock Police Department
  • Centralia Police Department
  • Chelan County Sheriff’s Office
  • Clark County Sheriff’s Office
  • Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office
  • Douglas County Sheriff’s Office
  • Edmonds Police
  • Ephrata Police Department
  • Ferndale Police Department
  • Fife Police Department
  • Garfield County Sheriff’s Office
  • Garfield Police Department
  • Gig Harbor Police Department
  • Grays Harbor Sheriff’s Office
  • Island County Sheriff’s Office
  • Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office
  • Kalama Police Department
  • Kelso Police Department
  • Kennewick Police Department
  • Kent Police Service
  • Kirkland Police Department
  • Lakewood Police Department
  • Lewis County Sheriff’s Office
  • Lynnwood Police Department
  • Mill Creek Police Department
  • Milton Police Department
  • Monroe Police Department
  • Moses Lake Police Department
  • Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office
  • Olympia Police
  • Orting Police Department
  • Pacific County Sheriff’s Office
  • Pacific Police Department
  • Pasco Police Station
  • Hangs Ear County Sheriff’s Office
  • Port Angeles Police Department
  • Pullman Police Station
  • Puyallup Police Department
  • Redmond Police Department
  • Sequim Police Department
  • Soap Lake Police Department
  • Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office
  • Woodland Police Department
  • Yakima Police Department

Following the passage of the 2020 law, the Attorney General’s office has been looking for innovative ways to support law enforcement, especially smaller agencies that might otherwise struggle to purchase the new equipment.

The Attorney General’s SAKI team tells KXRO it has found various ways to save on projects, including reallocating travel savings from the COVID-19 pandemic, to provide this funding from the grant. federal agency SAKI to support law enforcement.

Project overview

A sexual assault kit is a collection of evidence collected from a survivor by a medical professional, usually a specially trained sexual assault nurse examiner. A crime lab then tests DNA evidence that could help law enforcement find a perpetrator.

There are two types of sexual assault kit backlogs in Washington and across the country. The first is the backlog of “unsubmitted” sexual assault kits, which consists of kits that are in a law enforcement evidence storage facility because a DNA analysis was never requested. .

The second type of backlog occurs in crime labs, when sexual assault kits have been submitted to the lab, but have not yet been tested.

Washington state has made progress in dealing with its backlog of sexual assault kits in recent years, but there is still work to be done. In 2015, led by Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, the Legislature provided funding to the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab to help reduce the backlog. In Washington State, the State Patrol Crime Lab oversees the testing of all DNA evidence in the state.

In 2017, the Attorney General’s Office won its first $3 million SAKI grant from the United States Department of Justice to address the backlog of sexual assault kits. The office designated half of the total $3 million grant to pay for pending kit testing, the maximum amount allowed under the grant. The office won an additional $2.5 million in SAKI grant funding in 2019.

In 2019, the Legislative Assembly, again led by Rep. Orwall, authorized funding for the construction of a high-throughput DNA lab in Vancouver which, when completed, will allow the Crime Lab to process a larger volume high DNA cases at faster rates.

Through these efforts, to date, the Crime Lab has tested 5,278 backlog kits, which has resulted in 1,315 DNA matches in CODIS, the national DNA database.

Testing the pending kits has already provided new insights for cold cases. In one case, a suspect was charged with child rape more than 10 years after the crime, thanks to the results of a pending rape kit.

Once the kits are tested, local law enforcement can use the DNA to reopen cold cases. The AGO can offer investigative assistance to local law enforcement. In Washington State, the Attorney General only has the authority to initiate criminal investigations if he receives and accepts a referral from a county attorney or the governor. However, the AGO can assist local law enforcement with their investigations if requested by a law enforcement agency.

Learn more about the SAKI program here.


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