Council grills MPD about backlogged rape kits - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Council grills MPD about backlogged rape kits

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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DOWNTOWN MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

In a surprise move Memphis Councilman Kemp Conrad offered a plan to spend $2.5 million testing decades of backlogged DNA evidence, rape kits being stored by the Memphis Police Department.

"This is something I don't need someone to tell me there's a sense of urgency," Councilman Conrad said Tuesday. "If there are people that have been raped or possibly raped and we've got unprocessed kits. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that we should act on this immediately."

MORE: MPD gets $500K grant to test 2,200 backlogged rape kits
MORE: RAINN: What is a rape kit?


Conrad, the council's public safety committee chairman, wants the DNA evidence being stored by MPD sent for testing.

Police director Toney Armstrong said Monday the department is holding onto untested sexual assault kits dating back to the early 1980s.

"The law enforcement agency that has a responsibility to city government to the citizens of Memphis failed in performing its duty," said Councilwoman Wanda Halbert, one of several council members who grilled the police director during a council session on Tuesday.

"How did we get into this situation?," questioned Councilman Janis Fullilove.

"There was a decision made as far as the storage of these kits and they accumulated," Director Armstrong said. "They accumulated very rapidly and it's a pretty massive number at this point."

Director Armstrong said his department doesn't even know the exact number of kits it's holding. The rape kits are being stored in three undisclosed locations.

Some of the city council's most fiscally conservative members want to spend the money to solve the problem.

"I'll raise taxes to get this money," said Councilman Shea Flinn. "This is outrageous."

But the majority of the council had reservations about dipping into the city's reserve fund.

"Everybody here agrees with Mr. Conrad that we should test these kits," said Councilman Myron Lowery. "Nobody's going to speak against it. The only question is where the dollars come from? For us to act today on a moments notice to say we take it from the reserves is a knee-jerk reaction."

Council voted to refer the plan back to committee in two weeks as they want a plan from Director Armstrong. Councilman Conrad said he won't let the issue go.

"If this council with this information now, and possibly thousands of other kits out, there can't make this a priority and over the next few weeks figure out and get them to come back to us with a plan, how we're going do it - I don't want to serve on a body like this," he said. "Thank you Mr. Chairman."

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