Data show 270 rape kits de­stroyed

AG Of­fice: 43 of 61 state po­lice de­part­ments ceased prac­tice over last 2 years

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - MARYLAND - By Luke Broad­wa­ter

Mary­land po­lice de­part­ments de­stroyed 270 rape kits over the past two years, ac­cord­ing to new data re­leased by the Mary­land At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice.

Af­ter the Mary­land Gen­eral As­sem­bly passed tough re­stric­tions in 2017 block­ing the de­struc­tion of most rape kits, many of the state’s law en­force­ment agen­cies — 43 of 61 — stopped de­stroy­ing rape kits al­to­gether, the data show.

The Bal­ti­more Po­lice Depart­ment, Anne Arun­del County Po­lice Depart­ment and Howard County Po­lice Depart­ment, for ex­am­ple, de­stroyed no rape kits from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2019.

But oth­ers have de­stroyed dozens.

The Har­ford County Sher­iff’s Of­fice de­stroyed 87 rape kits over the past two years, while the Fred­er­ick Po­lice Depart­ment de­stroyed 84 and the Fred­er­ick County Sher­iff ’s Of­fice de­stroyed 26, ac­cord­ing to the At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s re­port.

Cristie A. Hop­kins, spokes­woman for the Har­ford County Sher­iff’s Of­fice, which de­stroyed the most kits in the state over the past two years, said deputies have com­plied with the new law.

“I can­not an­swer why the num­ber of de­stroyed kits by the Har­ford County Sher­iff’s Of­fice would be higher than other ju­ris­dic­tion’s num­bers, as I do not know what their process is for de­ter­min­ing what to de­stroy or trans­fer cus­tody,” Hop­kins wrote in an email. “At the Har­ford County Sher­iff ’s Of­fice, we make de­ter­mi­na­tions on the han­dling of kits in ac­cor­dance with the statute passed in 2017 and guid­ance set forth from the Of­fice of the Mary­land At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice.”

She noted the At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s new re­port in­cludes sev­eral months of data from be­fore the new state law took ef­fect.

Law­mak­ers who have worked on the is­sue said they were sur­prised to see hun­dreds of kits de­stroyed in the past two years.

Bal­ti­more County Del. Shelly Het­tle­man, a Demo­crat, spon­sored leg­is­la­tion in 2017 to ban the de­struc­tion of rape kits with the rare ex­cep­tions for cases where all sus­pects are known to be dead or the sus­pect al­ready has been con­victed and served his full term in prison.

“The law is pretty clear that there should have been no kits de­stroyed as of Oct. 1, 2017,” Het­tle­man said. “The law re­quires that law en­force­ment hold onto those kits for at least 20 years.”

Of the hun­dreds of kits de­stroyed, she said: “That’s re­ally con­cern­ing and re­ally prob­lem­atic.”

Anne Arun­del County Sen. Sarah El­freth, a Demo­crat, called the data “heart­break­ing.”

“I an­tic­i­pate some bru­tal dis­cus­sions ahead in the pur­suit of an­swers,” she said. “It is in­cred­i­bly dis­heart­en­ing to see that vic­tims sought jus­tice and our gov­ern­ment failed them.”

Mary­land leg­is­la­tors have ded­i­cated $3.5 mil­lion to help po­lice around the state process thou­sands of rape kits that have sat untested in stor­age.

At last count in 2018, 10 of Mary­land’s largest po­lice de­part­ments re­ported pos­sess­ing more than 6,500 untested kits, ac­cord­ing to the Mary­land At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice.

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

A sam­ple of Mary­land State Po­lice’s Vic­tim Sex­ual As­sault Ev­i­dence col­lec­tion kit.

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