- Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2015

NAMPA, Idaho (AP) - Dozens of rape kits in southwestern Idaho have not been sent to labs for testing, but officials remain torn if anything should be done to change that.

Backlogs of rape kits sitting in labs have been a nationwide concern in recent years. But in Idaho, the issue begins even earlier. Current law states that the fate of a rape kit lies with individual enforcement agencies who determine if the case merits testing.

The Idaho Press-Tribune (http://bit.ly/1MvwWtw ) reports that the Nampa Police Department has collected more than a 100 rape kits since 2010, but only 12 have been sent to a lab. Meanwhile, the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office collected 79 kits and sent 24 to be tested during the same timeframe.

In smaller districts in Canyon County, like the Parma Police Department, the two kits collected during an approximately five-year period were both sent to a lab. Other agencies across the state have sent a small percentage of their rape kits to labs.

The Twin Falls Police Department sent 19 out of their 84 kits to a lab. In eastern Idaho, the Idaho Falls Police Department sent 65 of their 150 kits to a lab.

Rape kits contain samples of semen, saliva or blood taken from a victim during a lengthy and invasive examination. Specimens containing DNA evidence are uploaded to a national database to check for a match.

Those who support sexual assault victims argue that every kit should be tested. However, some officers and lawmakers counter that law enforcement agencies should be able to use their own judgment.

“I believe there should be some discretion,” Caldwell Police Chief Chris Allgood said. “Some cases turn out to not be a true rape or it turns out there was inconsistencies that turn out to be true.”

Every rape case is treated like the claim is truthful, Allgood said, but he doesn’t want to put someone’s DNA into a database if a crime wasn’t committed.

On the other hand, victims may not feel validated or supported if their rape kit goes unchecked on the shelf, said Ilse Knecht, director of policy and advocacy for the Joyful Heart Foundation, a national advocate for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.

“If we’re not testing kits, we’re sending a message that they don’t matter,” Knecht said. “We are going to test every kit because we want you to know that (suspects) are going to be held accountable.”

The advocacy group says adopting laws that would require mandatory testing has never come before the Idaho Legislature. Currently, just 10 states mandate testing of all sexual assault kits.

“Why do we go through the process of a rape kit unless you believe a rape has taken place?” said state Rep. Christy Perry, a Republican from Nampa. “If we are assuming a rape has taken place, why wouldn’t we test it?”

Perry said she’s not ready to make a recommendation about adopting stricter laws, but she said that DNA evidence was important.

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Information from: Idaho Press-Tribune, http://www.idahopress.com

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