City council will get updates about rape kit backlog again after WREG asks questions

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Memphis City Council is now demanding updates again on the sexual assault kit testing backlog.

WREG started asking questions when we noticed the council hadn’t received any updates on the 2010 rape kit backlog in months.

Council member Jamita Swearengen, chairwoman of the public safety committee, asked the police director Tuesday to bring back an update in two weeks.

“We have been receiving numerous questions regarding it," Swearengen said. "I asked him about it before this committee meeting. I shared with him it’s been a while since we have received an update."

WREG first exposed the massive backlog that included 12,000 sexual assault kits left on police shelves for years, even decades, to collect dust while violent rapists continued to walk free.

Our investigation led to the kits getting tested, and now many are headed to the district attorney’s office.

As of last fall, the DA’s office told WREG they had more than 350 cases and already more than 80 guilty pleas and convictions.

Prosecutors indicated their work was far from over.

WREG investigators promised to keep tracking the progress, but the city, despite its promise for transparency, made that harder.

The monthly updates given to the city council suddenly stopped. The last one was posted last April.

Representatives from the Sexual Assault Kit Task Force assured us in November to expect another update by the end of 2019, and then that was pushed to the end of January.

Still no update on the website.

So we went to Tuesday’s committee meetings and received yet another update from multiple council members.

“To me, we know that they are doing, finishing up the kits. I believe we should get a summary of where we are,” council member Patrice Robinson said.

Swearengen said the updates will now be quarterly.

“We are going to make certain they are afforded the opportunity to receive the data — the current data,” Swearengen said.

WREG will be at the next meeting and will let you know what happens.

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