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Mayor Wharton addresses backlog of sexual assault test kits

Ac-Wharton-500Mayor A C Wharton Jr. issued an executive order Monday (Oct. 21) requiring the Memphis Police Department to develop a plan to deal with the backlog of sexual assault test kits, collaboration with various public and community stakeholders to assure appropriate notification and interaction with victims, and establishing clear policies and procedures for prompt processing of new kits.

Wharton commended Police Director Toney Armstrong, District Attorney General Amy Weirich, Memphis City Council and others involved for their efforts to address the backlog issue. He laid out a plan for dealing with the kits in the future.

Within 90 days of issuance of the order, the Memphis Police Department is expected to begin providing monthly reports to the mayor and the Council's Public Safety Committee. The report is to address the status of the remedial plan and any new developments involving the processing of sexual assault test kits. The executive order calls for the development of "key performance indicators" to measure effectiveness and consistency.

Under the order, the chief administrative officer and the police director are to get input from the community on the best ways to respond to victims of violence and rape through safety and health institutions. They also must review protocol for all interactions with victims from 911 calls to follow-up actions.

"It is extremely important to ensure that evidence associated with sexual assaults is processed in a timely manner that is consistent with the rules of evidence," Wharton said in a statement issued Monday morning.

"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. We have to get this right."

Wharton's executive order directs the Police Department to work with the District Attorney General and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to eliminate the backlog as soon as possible.

"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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