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SPD to Test All Sexual Assault Kits

After consulting with its community partners, the Seattle Police Department has decided to test all sexual assault evidence kits, including untested kits in storage.

Since her appointment last June, Chief Kathleen O’Toole has heard from the community regarding testing of evidence kits. SPD discussed the matter with its partners in the King County Prosecutor’s Office, Harborview Medical Center, and victim advocacy groups before making this decision.

“We will test all sexual assault kits moving forward and begin addressing untested kits,” said Captain Deanna Nollette, the supervisor of the Special Victims Unit for SPD. “We’ll work with our partners to ensure that what we are doing is the gold standard.”

Sexual assault victims generally undergo a forensic examination for the purpose of collecting evidence left by a suspect such as blood, saliva, or semen. Medical staff conducting the examination preserves evidence using a sexual assault examination kit, commonly referred to as a rape kit. The kit contains combs, swabs, blood collection devices, and documentation forms.

After receiving a kit, the Washington State Patrol crime lab examines evidence for DNA belonging to the suspect. Results are entered into the Combined DNA Index System, CODIS, which is a large FBI database containing DNA profiles.

The Seattle Police Department has collected 1641 rape kits during the past decade, of which 365 have been tested by the state crime lab.