Testing Montana's sexual assault kits
Posted on 04 October 2016
Montana Awarded $2 Million Grant to Test, Track Assault Kits
Montana has been awarded a $2 million federal grant to test and track unsubmitted sex-assault evidence kits.
At the request of Attorney General Tim Fox’s Sexual Assault Evidence Task Force, Tina Chamberlain with the Montana Board of Crime Control submitted an application to the Bureau of Justice Assistance for the FY 2016 National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Competitive Grant, requesting $2 million. The National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative provides an opportunity for Montana to inventory, test, and track unsubmitted sexual assault kits, examine the issues surrounding why the kits were not submitted, and facilitate a development of victim-centered policies and procedures in responding to sexual assaults and eliminating unsubmitted kits.
This is in addition to a $284,500 grant Montana received earlier this month specifically for kit tracking.
Last December, the Attorney General’s Office contacted every county sheriff and city police chief in Montana asking for a census of unsubmitted kits in their possession. They were asked to provide the total number of unsubmitted kits, the date of each kit, and general reasons why each kit was not submitted to the state crime laboratory.
Now that the grants has been awarded, a coordinator will be hired to facilitate communication between the task force and project partners, as well as law enforcement jurisdictions and survivors whose kits result in positive DNA hits in the national Combined DNA Index System. The coordinator will also track Montana’s approximately 1,400 unsubmitted kits throughout the three-year project. Other positions, including an investigator to assist local agencies with unsolved cases, a community victim advocate, and a law enforcement training coordinator will also be filled as part of the project. Grant funds will also be used to produce a law enforcement field guide outlining policies and procedures for sexual assault investigations.
Testing of the unsubmitted kits will be outsourced; those closest to nearing the statute of limitations will be prioritized. It is estimated all testing will be complete in 18 months.
Attorney General Fox’s plan is to provide assistance to the seven tribal governments in the state. While tribal governments work under their own sovereign nation justice initiatives, the Montana Attorney General’s Office will ensure that training opportunities and technical assistance are available to help tribes establish their own sexual assault protocols in evidence collection, tracking, investigations, prosecutions, and victim assistance.
The grant project narrative, including an implementation timeline, is available here: https://dojmt.gov/wp-content/uploads/MBCC-2016-SAKI-Proj-Narrative.pdf.
More information about Attorney General Fox’s task force is available here: https://dojmt.gov/agooffice/sexual-assault-evidence-task-force/.