JAMESTOWN – The Jamestown Police Department is one of several police agencies from across the country that was recently named in an investigative report by CNN focusing on the destruction of rape evidence.
The CNN report was entitled ”Disturbing’ Rape Kit Investigation Prompts Action in Several States” and was written by investigative journalists Sergio Hernandez and Ashley Fantz as part of the CNN Investigates series.
The report highlights incidents in several police agencies across the country where evidence collected from rape kits was destroyed prematurely.
CNN found the JPD destroyed at least two kits tied to cases police described as first-degree rapes, which carried no statutes of limitations.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office called the destruction of the kits “disturbing” and directed state police to contact the Jamestown Police Department to ensure it is “complying with state law regarding the handling of rape kits.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand issued a statement calling the destruction “deeply offensive to the survivors of these horrific crimes.”
“I am extremely disturbed that some police departments around the country have been brazenly destroying this crucial evidence, even before the statute of limitations has ended — something they almost certainly would not do for any other violent crime,” she said.
The reporters for CNN say Jamestown and other jurisdictions in the report were selected for investigation after they looked at data from the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting program on cities in each state with the largest population, the highest raw number of rape reports, and the highest number of rape reports per capita in 2014.
Jamestown Police Chief Harry Snellings issued a statement as part of the CNN investigation:
At face value, [experts’ claims that sexual assault kits should be maintained for the time allowed by law to prosecute] is a fair criticism. However, in the cases CNN identified, there were several examples of why we would not retain the evidence kits. They include victims recanting their statements and investigations revealing that the acts were consensual or did not occur. If there is no crime committed, there is no need to retain the evidence. There have been some changes and proposed legislation in the handling of sexual assault kits in New York State. As of February 26, 2017, a law enforcement agency must submit any sexual offense evidence kit that it receives or collects to an appropriate forensic laboratory within 10 days of receipt. Additionally, there has been proposed legislation requiring the retention of all kits for extended periods of time. As CNN’s investigation showed, we have been retaining all kits since 2013. We have been following this practice in anticipation of these changes.
WRFA also reached out to Snellings with questions about the report, who reiterated what he had stated to CNN.
“The two cases referenced in the article were destroyed between 2010 and 2013,” Snelling told WRFA via email. “These cases were closed out. Since 2013 It has been the policy and practice of the Jamestown Police Department to permanently maintain all kits.”