CALDWELL — Caldwell Police have decided to submit 27 previously untested rape kits to a lab for DNA testing, some of which may date back at least five years.
Following a 2015 investigation by the Idaho Press-Tribune, the Caldwell Police Department found that about 54 percent of the kits collected into evidence at CPD were submitted to a lab and tested.
Following record requests, CPD reported it had collected 79 rape kits into evidence from Jan. 1, 2010, to Sept. 30, 2015. Of those kits, 37 had been sent to a lab for testing, 10 were sent but not tested, 26 were never sent and six were at the lab.
Caldwell Police Chief Frank Wyant told the Idaho Press-Tribune on Thursday that his department plans to send 23 of those untested kits to a lab. Two have already been sent, and three more cases are being investigated, he said. Of the three being investigated, one had a kit sent, one will be sent and one had no kit preformed.
Three other reported rape cases were unfounded, and the kits won't be submitted.
Wyant said even some of the rape kits stemming from closed cases where the suspect pleaded guilty are being sent in for testing.
A rape kit, or sexual assault evidence kit, is collected during a post-rape exam on an alleged victim. The exam can take several hours and involves swabbing the alleged victim's body for DNA evidence, photographing their body and looking for any evidence that a sexual assault has occurred.
Any DNA evidence can then be used to either acquit or convict a suspect.
In part, some of CPD's decision to test the kits came after a piece of legislation was signed last month by Gov. Butch Otter regarding rape kit testing policy.
The bill was approved after the Press-Tribune filed public records records for 22 law enforcement agencies across the state, finding the results varied widely among different agencies. Meridian Police, for example, had an 80 percent submission rate of rape kits tested in a five-year time frame, while Twin Falls Police submitted about 23 percent of the kits brought into evidence.
The legislation is the first of its kind in the state and would mandate all law enforcement agencies track the number of rape kits collected into evidence and how many of those are tested.
If law enforcement determines no crime was committed or if a victim requests his or her kit not be tested, officials are not required to submit it to the lab.
The legislation mandates law enforcement send an annual report to Idaho State Police on the number of rape kits they submitted to a lab, versus those that were never submitted. If police decide not to test a kit, a county prosecutor must sign off on the decision, and the officer must provide an explanation on why it wasn't tested.
Wyant said most police agencies already have tracking systems in place to follow issues such as crime statistics. Those would include topics such as tracking how many crimes of a certain nature occurred in the city.
The system can be programmed to track sexual assault as well, but it previously was not programmed that way.
Throughout the Press-Tribune's requests for rape kit evidence records, the responses from law enforcement agencies greatly differed in how they answered questions. Bonneville County, for example, estimated it could take up to 60 hours to answer the question of how many kits were tested in the last five years. Coeur d'Alene Police, however, promptly provided a detailed response of how many kits weren't tested, along with explanations of why those kits weren't tested.
Caldwell Police still needs to make an arrangement with the Idaho State Police Forensic Services lab in Meridian on how many kits to submit for testing at a time. Wyant said it will likely send in a few kits at a time, eventually submitting all 27.
In March, the Nampa Police announced it would submit about 90 rape kits to a lab for testing that had been previously untested. The decision also came after the Press-Tribune's articles published.
After Nampa Police learned it had submitted about 10 percent of its rape kits collected into evidence over a five-year time frame, the agency reviewed all cases that had an untested kit.
A public records request by the paper found that from Jan. 1, 2010, to Oct. 5, 2015, the Nampa Police Department had collected 117 rape kits into evidence Of those, 12 rape kits had been sent to a lab for testing.
A kit not being tested does not necessarily mean the case wasn’t investigated or prosecuted.