Charlotte, NC - “I will not sit in the position of chief of police and have my detectives work questioned,” says Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerry Putney. He loyally defends his Sexual Assault team after it was reported that CMPD destroyed rape kits in more than 1000 cases, roughly one third of its total collected since 2000.
“None of the 1000 cases that everybody talks about were illegal,” Says Chief Putney.
Lt. Valerie peacock supervises CMPD’s Sexual Assault team –
“So there’s a lot of kits in those numbers that were not destroyed – they were disposed of by other means out of our property system – but they weren’t destroyed by us.”
Lt. Peacock says disposed can mean the case happened outside CMPD’s jurisdiction where they were transferred out.
“We look at all evidence, sometimes that could be surveillance video, it could cell phone evidence, it could be witnesses, there’s other factors that could be at play, says Lt. Peacock.
Also, a sexual assault victim may want to remain anonymous where victims decline to prosecute or even have a rape kit processed, making the rape kit just one piece of the investigation.
“Part of the victim centered approach is allowing to the victim to have some control – over what happens because they’ve had so much control taken from them.. so we try to let them something back and let them drive how the investigation will proceeds or not proceeds.” Says Lt. Peacock.
Still, the value of testing a rape kit through CODIS, the FBI’s national data base, cannot be overlooked. But the lack of resources within a police department can hamper its ability to test in what’s considered a timely manner, whether its manpower or storage or both. And, it’s not just a Charlotte issue, but nationwide, where the backlog on rape kits waiting to be tested across the country is estimated to be some 400,000.
“We can always meet the legal standard, we have and we continue to.. but, we are striving to meet the ethical and moral standard that our community expects of us, that’s the change in our policy last fall.” Says Chief Putney
Charlotte received a grant last fall that provides for 885 untested rape kits to be processed. Chief Kerr Putney adds more untested rape kits are being sent to the FBI for processing and that CMPD just received budget approval to hire 2 new staff members to help in the Sexual Assault division. Chief Putney also wants to reassure the people of Charlotte, especially victims of sexual assault, CMPD will be there to bring justice.
“What I want the public to know is that we are going to process every one of them. We’re trying to make sure there is no stone left unturned.” Says Chief Putney