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Council approves contract to test rape kits

Friday, November 4, 2016 by Jo Clifton

On Thursday, a unanimous City Council voted to authorize a six-year interlocal agreement with Dallas County to process Austin’s backlogged sexual assault kits (and other forensic jobs in the future) for $3.6 million. Originally, the contract was for one year with five 12-month extensions possible. But Austin Police Department Chief of Staff Brian Manley said that Dallas County requested a longer contract so that it would not have to go through the process of getting approval to continue the contract. Manley said, “Currently we have 484 (sexual assault) kits in our backlog, and those are the kits that we are talking about right now. Those are the kits that we will be submitting” to the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences. He said they would now be working on how submission of the cases would occur and the expected turnaround times. Council Member Greg Casar has championed the project to get the backlogged cases into the hands of a forensic lab since Austin’s lab shut down over the summer. Although Casar was pleased that the contract was approved, he released a statement that said, “This continues to be an unacceptable situation. Thanks to the advocacy of survivors and their allies, our police department made a commitment in September to clear the backlog as quickly as possible while our own forensic lab is closed. Today’s action gets us a step closer to achieving that goal, but we still don’t know how much closer. That’s not good enough. Survivors in our community deserve to know, at a minimum, what our City’s goals are for when their evidence will be processed.”

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