Beshear's office will partner with University of Louisville to examine handling of unprocessed sexual assault kits

01/19/2017 05:51 PM

FRANKFORT — Attorney General Andy Beshear announced Thursday that his office will partner with researchers at the University of Louisville, who will examine Kentucky’s handling of more than 3,000 untested sexual assault kits as they’re processed by state police.

The Kentucky SAFE Kit Backlog Research Project “seeks to examine the outcomes of kit testing, provide justice to victims and identify data-driven, victim-centered responses,” Beshear said during a Capitol news conference.

“The Kentucky SAFE Kit Backlog Research Project is one of the first of its kind to examine and, I think, to hold accountable on the state level as opposed to a city or county level,” he said, “and it’s going to provide valuable insights not only here in Kentucky, but to every other state addressing this issue.”

The effort will be funded through $50,000 in settlement funds from a pharmaceutical lawsuit, Beshear said.

Findings will be publicly available in quarterly reports, through a website specifically for the project, presentations to stakeholders and data files, he said.

U of L will work at least a year on the project, said Bradley Campbell, assistant professor with the university’s Department of Criminal Justice who will serve as principal investigator on the project. He previously worked on a similar project focused on Houston, Texas, for five years.

“They saw a lot of changes that came from evidence-based research where they implemented a victim advocate into their adult sex crimes units to assist victims throughout the criminal justice process,” Campbell said of law enforcement changes in Houston in response to that city’s study.

“They’ve also brought in national experts on training of neurobiology of trauma and how to better respond to and interview victims of sexual assault crimes.”

Beshear says he expects the project to dovetail with other initiatives from his office to better prepare law enforcement for sexual assault cases as results from untested sexual assault kits start coming in.

“I am excited about the approach, the commitment we have made as far as victims advocacy on each and every one of these backlogged cases because everyone whose kit is sent to that national lab is going to be contacted whether or not a (Combined DNA Index System) hit comes back,” he said.

“That’s something that these folks deserve, having waited so long. They deserve news.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers Kentucky politics and all the goings-on at the State Capitol. Kevin was born and raised in Frankfort so he grew up around politics and has always had the drive to follow the political process and hold lawmakers accountable. Before joining Spectrum News Kevin covered government and politics for The State Journal in Frankfort. You can watch Kevin’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135.

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