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Idaho clears sexual assault kit backlog

Courtesy of the Idaho State Police

Five years ago, a state audit in Idaho found a significant portion of the state’s sexual assault examination kits were never sent to a lab and tested. Today, the Idaho State Police said the entire backlog has been cleared.

The state audit said a little more than 1,100 sexual assault kits had never been tested. The kits contain physical evidence, including DNA. A 2015 Idaho Press investigation found often, only an officer’s judgment determined whether a sexual assault kit would be submitted for testing or not. Some law enforcement agencies sent as few as 10%of their kits to get tested.

A 2016 state law requires all kits to be tested, with narrow exemptions. The results are be compared to a state database. And a system was established to track every kit in the state. 

"This is a major step in building trust among sexual assault survivors, for assisting law enforcement, and providing critical information to policymakers," said Matthew Gamette, Laboratory System Director of Idaho State Police Forensic Services in a news release from the agency. "Overall, the completion of these previously unsubmitted kits in Idaho is part of a bigger initiative to keep Idaho communities safe and combat the crime of sexual assault."

While the Idaho State Patrol says test results from the backlog have now been provided to law enforcement for further investigation, a spokesperson for the agency says it doesn’t yet have data on how many tested kits led to prosecutions.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.
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