SALEM—Oregon State Police’s Forensic Services Division finished processing the backlog of thousands of old “SAFE – kits” sent in by police agencies around the state, becoming one of the first states in the country to fully eliminate its SAFE kit backlog. These kits — Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence kits (sometimes incorrectly called “rape kits”) — are used to collect evidence from victims of sexual assault.
Prior to the Oregon Legislature’s passage of SB1571 in 2016, Oregon police agencies submitted SAFE kits for DNA analysis, only when the test results could potentially help solve or prove the crime being investigated. As a result, more than 5,000 kits were retained in evidence storage at police agencies around the state. In passing SB-1571, the Oregon Legislature recognized both the future crime-fighting value added by growing the database of “DNA fingerprints,” and the intrinsic value many survivors, victims, and victims’ families found in the testing.
Oregon Police Chiefs and Sheriffs partnered with the State Police to provide an accounting of sexual assault kits, so public safety leadership could assess the pending workload and establish new submission protocols to manage it efficiently.
The passage of SB 1571, and the Legislature’s support of additional staffing in the State Police crime lab, made it possible for the OSP Forensic Services Division to process thousands of SAFE kits over the last two years. At the same time, with help from the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office, Portland Police Bureau, and the District Attorneys in Lane County and Marion County, grant funding was secured to pay for outside testing of the oldest kits from police agencies in those counties. State Police scientists entered eligible “DNA fingerprint” profiles from both testing sources into the FBI’s national database (CODIS).
“For the sake of justice and Oregon’s sexual assault survivors, Oregon’s public safety leaders made the submission and testing of SAFE kits a priority at all levels of law enforcement,” said Oregon State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton. “This success story would not have been possible without the collaboration of Oregon’s Chiefs of Police, Sheriffs, District Attorneys, legislators, health workers, and sexual assault survivors and their advocates.”
Governor Kate Brown added, “As a longtime advocate for survivors of sexual assault, addressing the backlog of SAFE kits in Oregon has been a priority of my administration. This project is the perfect example of what can happen when diverse stakeholders work together to right a wrong. Although success cannot come overnight, key investments in funding and the steady work of our State Police Forensic Scientists show that success is achievable.”
By working together with other capable Oregon partners, Oregon has become one of the few states in the country to fully eliminate the SAFE kit backlog.