Wharton Issues Order To Eliminate Rape Kit Backlog



Memphis Mayor A C Wharton issued an executive order Monday morning outlining a plan to eliminate the backlog of unprocessed rape kits in Memphis “as soon as is possible.”

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton
  • Memphis Mayor A C Wharton

The order comes after the backlog was discussed publicly by Memphis Police Department (MPD) director Toney Armstrong two months ago as he asked the Memphis City Council to accept $500,000 in state and federal funds to help test some of the kits. The council responded with $1.5 million in new funds to test even more kits and to build a dedicated storage space for the kits.

Memphis police will immediately inventory all backlogged rape kits and establish a plan to have them tested. No “case will be considered ‘cold’,” according to the order. Evidence collected from the tests will be used to in the prosecution of the crimes to the fullest extent of the law.

Going forward, MPD will have policies and procedures to process all new rape kits and set up performance indicators to measure the program’s compliance and success, the order says. In three months, the police director will begin to give monthly reports on the program to the mayor and to the city council’s public safety committee.

“Appropriate processes and procedures in the handling of this evidence help preserve the rights of victims, support the prosecution of criminals, and promote justice for all,” Wharton said in a Monday statement. “We have to get this right.”

Memphis police will work with the District Attorney General’s office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to eliminate the current backlog. Wharton’s order further directs MPD to process all new rape kits immediately.

“The purpose of this order is to ensure that this does not happen again, that these cases are being actively investigated, and that we identify and employ best practices for dealing with sexual assaults in the future,” Wharton said.

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