Internal audit of Minneapolis rape kit backlog highlights testing concerns

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A new audit shows dozens of rape kits on the shelves of the Minneapolis Police Department have gone untested, even months after a backlog was first announced.

Over the last two months, MPD said it had sent more than 100 kits to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for testing. The department said it'd received only eight back from the state lab.

"We need the BCA to be responsive to some of these kits," said audit committee chair Linea Palmisano.

In an email response to questions from 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, a spokesperson from the BCA said in part that the agency "will continue to work with Minneapolis PD on addressing their unsubmitted kits in a way that minimizes the impact on current cases" that are coming from departments across the state.

This revelation came as the internal auditor's report on the backlog was being presented. MPD asked city staff to do an independent count of the untested kits in the department's evidence storage facilities.

In November, MPD announced it had more than 1,700 untested rape kits. The number was a significant increase from what the department reported having in 2015 when the state legislature order departments to take inventory of untested rape kits.

After the announcement, city leaders voted to fund two full-time analyst positions at the BCA. The scientists would be explicitly dedicated to helping MPD clear it's backlog.

But the BCA said the funding wasn't authorized until January 17. Because of that, spokesperson Jill Oliveira said the agency had not begun the hiring process.

"As we await the funding to start the hiring process for new dedicated scientists, the BCA is testing cases prioritized by Minneapolis as part of our current caseload with our existing scientists," Oliveira wrote in an email. "Our average kit turnaround time is 90 days."

Palmisano, who also sits on the city council, said she feels like the BCA is a "missing partner" in the puzzle of trying to handle the backlog.

During the meeting, she questioned whether the BCA was to blame for the delays in testing.

"I think that we need to take a serious look at how we work together as partners and really improve on that," she said. "I fear that it sends a message to victims that we desperately don't want to send."