Wharton asks Haslam for backlogged rape kit assistance - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Wharton asks Haslam for backlogged rape kit assistance

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

Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's visit Thursday to Memphis for the grand opening of Electrolux served as a perfect opportunity for Mayor A C Wharton to ask the State for some help, particular footing the multi-million dollar price tag to process those backlogged rape kits.

It was a joyous celebration at Electrolux as a testament to Memphis and the State's economic development initiatives. But Mayor Wharton also grabbed a few moments to talk with Gov. Haslam about an explosive issue that's not bringing smiles to anyone's faces.

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It's one of the more enviable abilities skilled politicians can wield. For even in the roaring hubbub of a high profile event, politicos such as State Sen. Mark Norris (R-Collierville), Mayor Wharton and Gov. Haslam still found the spaces for quiet conversations on the delicate issue of what to do about the backlog of thousands of untested rape kits in the possession of the Memphis Police Department.

Talking was easy. But, as for soliciting solid and immediate help from Nashville?

"Mayor Wharton said, 'Hey, I think there's some of these things ... because the State prosecutes those ... some of that is the responsibility of the State ... some of it's local," Gov. Haslam said. "Obviously, for us, we have to do something that applies statewide, if we did something."

But since September, the ever vigilant Tennessee Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Norris has already been working on such a required statewide legislative proposal that at least begins to legally address the rape kit problem that's not just applicable to Memphis.

"It would require local law enforcement to give us an inventory of what they have on the shelf in the way of untested forensic evidence or rape kits from each local law enforcement agency," Sen. Norris said. "Obviously, Memphis has a huge problem. That's not to say other cities don't.

"In fact, other cities all across the United states Do, to such an extent," Sen. Norris added. "There was federal legislation in 2013 called the Safer Act. The federal government provided funding to test some of these backlogs."

While appearing to be non-committal to the idea of the state serving up financial support, on what's projected to be a multi-million dollar process, both Gov. Haslam and Sen. Norris are willing to listen to any valid suggestions on the subject from Mayor Wharton.

"What he thinks the State's role might be going forward on that," Gov. Haslam said. "So, I told him I'd have a follow up conversation with him next week about what that might look like."

"I think it's incumbent upon everybody not to victimize the victims again," Sen. Norris said. "Either by not taking action or by taking action and making them poster children for political gain. That's not what it's about. So, we're going to get at it and try to fix it."

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