CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Charlotte Observer reports that Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have destroyed rape kits from about 1,000 cases during the past 16 years, even though DNA evidence from sexual assault exams is used to identify and prosecute rapists.
The newspaper reports (http://bit.ly/1sACCfc ) it asked for the department’s records under the state Public Records Act. Those records show that of about 3,000 sexual assault exams performed, the results of about one third were destroyed.
Police Lt. David Robinson said the department’s actions would not stand up to today’s best practices but the way the kits were handled complied with accepted protocols at the time.
He told the newspaper that every case was thoroughly investigated and some exam results were destroyed after victims withdrew complaints, prosecutors declined to prosecute, a suspect was arrested or officers determined no crime occurred.
The Observer said its analysis found that kits were discarded in 72 cases that were still categorized as open and about half those cases fall under a 2009 state law requiring police to retain biological evidence in unsolved rape and homicide investigations.
Robinson said the department reviewed cases that occurred since the law was passed and found those cases has been mislabeled and many should have been listed as closed.
The department changed its policies last year and now submits all rape kits for testing and also keeps the evidence in storage, said Lt. Melanie Peacock, who oversees sexual assault investigations.
She added police recognize the kits could contain a “treasure trove” of evidence, she said.
“Now we are better educated and looking at this from a global perspective,” she said. “Looking back, it would have been nice if we had done it sooner.”
Information from: The Charlotte Observer, http://www.charlotteobserver.com