Wharton issues rape kit testing executive order - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Wharton issues rape kit testing executive order

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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) -

Mayor A C Wharton has urged Police Director Toney Armstrong and his staff through an executive order to develop a plan to deal with the backlog of thousands of sexual assault kits, some dating back 40 years.

The mayor, who issued the executive order Monday, also wants to be sensitive so he's asking domestic violence organizations to help contact potential rape victims tied to the kits.

DOWNLOAD: Read Mayor Wharton's executive order

In his last appearance before city council, Director Armstrong said his department with the help of the state might be able to process 400 rape kits a month out of the more than 7,000 they had to inspect. Now Mayor Wharton is trying to assure that monumental task continues to move at as fast a pace as possible.

Wise men know it's never good to repeat the same mistake. Nor as Mayor Wharton emphasized should the city hesitate in trying to clear up the 40-year backlog of more than 7,000 rape kits and 6,000 pieces of miscellaneous items of potential evidence unearthed by the police department in August.

"Once we show that we have the resolve, we're going to find the money," the mayor said. "We have to do this. I'm not at all deterred by the prospect there's going to be a price tag."

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Mr. Wharton set about to strengthen the resolve of the MPD in announcing the details of a signed "executive order" he sent to Director Armstrong and George Little, the city's chief administrative officer. In a letter to both, Mayor Wharton stresses he wants to see a developed plan, a timetable if you will, of when the sexual assault kits will be processed and a systematic approach to notifying potential victims with the help of women anti-domestic violence advocates, such as the family safety center and the Memphis Area Women's Council.

"The effort that the mayor's making with the executive order, about which we're very excited, is to broaden that look beyond that schedule of how many can go a month to a lab to the rest of how the community can respond to the needs of rape and rape victims," said Deborah Clubb, Memphis Area Women's Council.

"Only through working with advocacy groups and listening to them, can we get the constructive criticism or suggestions that we need, to make sure that we have a much better way of processing and evidence," Mayor Wharton added.

The mayor said he's turning to private and philanthropic groups for the money to help police establish a series of what he called, "key performance indicators" on the progress they're making in assembling and conclusively identifying the kits.

"This points out who is responsible," Mr. Wharton said. "We will develop and report out to you the time sequences, a method of reporting to the council and to me."

But, Mayor Wharton and Clubb both agree that the delicacy of contacting potential rape victims whose cases have been in limbo for years, will require advocates with compassion.

"We did ask that the whole issue of the advocate for the victim to be carefully thought through and that the right personnel, with the right training, be given that task," Clubb said.

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