August 11, 2016
OLYMPIA – A national organization advocating for reforms in rape kit processing launched a campaign this week encouraging governors to publicly endorse and support efforts to eliminate backlogs and make rape kit testing a greater priority for law enforcement. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is the first governor in the nation to endorse Test400k's call to action.
Washington Rep. Tina Orwall (D-Des Moines) took part in Test400k's campaign launch. Washington state is a known leader in rape kit reform. Inslee this year signed legislation sponsored by Orwall to create a statewide tracking system for rape kits, the first such bill in the nation. Orwall has also sponsored legislation to strengthen requirements related to processing of rape kits by law enforcement.
"Faster processing and tracking of rape kits must be a priority for all of us who care about safe communities," Inslee said. "Survivors of sexual assault deserve reassurance that law enforcement takes these crimes seriously. Waiting months or years just to have a rape kit tested is an affront to victims who often live in fear and anxiety while waiting for justice.
"Thanks to the persistent leadership of legislators like Tina, Washington is at the leading edge of this effort. I encourage other governors to work with their legislatures and law enforcement leaders to commit to eliminating the backlog of untested kits and enact reforms that better help us identify and prosecute rapists and sexual predators."
"This is a proud day for Washington State as our governor becomes the first leader in the nation to sign the Test400k pledge," Orwall said. "This critical pledge highlights and builds on our legislative work to test and track every kit in a timely manner to seek justice for survivors and keep our communities safe."
The Washington State Patrol Crime Lab is in the process of training additional forensic scientists who will be dedicated to testing sexual assault kits and entering profiles into CODIS, the FBI's national DNA database. DNA matches made by CODIS provide valuable investigative leads to detectives and can also be used to exonerate an innocent person wrongly accused or convicted of a crime. Work is also underway at WSP to implement Washington's statewide sexual assault kit tracking system.
"The Washington State Patrol is committed to finding justice for the survivors of these crimes," says Chief John Batiste. "Recent legislative action has allowed the Washington State Patrol to hire additional forensic scientists to relieve the backlog of untested sexual assault kits and to begin work on a statewide tracking system to provide more transparency to the judicial process."