HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 6, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) Commissioner Tyree C. Blocker and Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy today signed an agreement to improve the way the agencies work together in establishing laboratory standards and data collection procedures regarding sexual assault testing and evidence.
"To end what is a nationwide problem, Pennsylvania is among a small but growing number of states that have implemented reforms to end the sexual assault evidence backlog," said Secretary of Health Karen Murphy. "Since Governor Wolf signed the Act 27, we have been working with our partners in law enforcement and victims' rights advocates to find out exactly how many sexual assault test kits have gone untested," said Secretary Murphy. "This agreement with the Pennsylvania State Police helps maximize state resources to find out where the rape kit backlogs are, and gives local forensic laboratories protocols from a criminal laboratory. The Wolf Administration is committed to ending the backlog and ensuring that the rights of sexual assault victims are protected and guaranteed."
The Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act mandates the DOH as the responsible agency, with concurrence of PSP and in consultation with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR), for approving certain laboratories to receive sexual assault evidence for testing and analysis. Additionally, the act mandates the DOH to annually collect data on backlogged sexual assault evidence from laboratories and local law enforcement.
To better set these standards and collect more accurate data, the PSP and DOH have agreed to work collectively. PSP will now assist in establishing the forensic laboratory guidelines and gathering backlogged data from laboratories and local law enforcement agencies.
"This is a great example of state agencies working together toward a common goal," said State Police Commissioner Tyree C. Blocker. "With this working relationship, the requirements of the Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act will be more effectively implemented. We are fully committed to ending the sexual assault evidence backlog and will work diligently to achieve this goal."
DOH has already taken several proactive steps to deal with the backlog:
- DOH has worked with PA District Attorneys Association, the PA Coalition on Rape, and PSP to communicate the new reporting requirements under Act 27 to local police departments, as well as reaching out to them individually.
- DOH contacted police departments to collect an inventory of backlogged kits and kits in their possession and made the necessary reporting forms available on its website, as well as published a notice of the reporting requirement in the PA Bulletin.
- DOH has conducted free training sessions across the state open to all state and local law enforcement agencies regarding Act 27.
- DOH and PSP have also worked with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape to determine whether additional standards for laboratories are required.
MEDIA CONTACT: Cpl. Adam Reed, PSP, 717-783-5556 or April Hutcheson, DOH, 717-787-1783
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SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Health; Pennsylvania State Police