MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The City of Memphis said it is close to the half way mark in testing more than 12,000 old rape kits that sat on shelves for years.
WREG was the first to bring the back log of rape kits to light, something Memphis Police adamantly denied.
For years, 12,000 DNA specimens from thousands of women, who thought giving them to police would lead to their attackers being caught, sat on police shelves.
“Was there something sitting out there 5,10, 15 years? I don’t know they knew about that. I don’t think they knew. I know I didn’t know about it,” said former Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin.
It wasn’t until WREG began digging that the truth started unfurling.
In 2010, a WREG investigation uncovered 1,000 untested rape kits, that were never tested because the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Memphis Police never submitted them.
Even then, the man who was the top cop in Memphis adamantly denied there were untested rape kits.
Turns out he was wrong.
Police would later reveal that more than 12,000 rape kits had gone untested and said they would immediately start testing them.
Godwin now works with the State of Tennessee in the Office of Homeland Security.
On a recent trip back to Memphis, WREG’s April Thompson sat down with him, and for the first time, he answered questions about what he knew and when he knew it.
“You said back then, it was not a problem, not a backlog. They were not sitting,” Thompson asked him.
“That’s what I was told. There was no backlog as to what we had, but I must tell you, I never knew there was anything stored in any precinct. That never got to my desk,” said Godwin.
The top cop in Memphis said he was kept in the dark about the happenings in his own department.
So the denial pushed forward.
In a letter to our station and other city leaders, Godwin further denied any backlog of kits and even discredited WREG’s story as ‘the most misleading irresponsible reporting he had ever witnessed.’
We asked him about WREG first reporting there was a backlog and his comments that there was not one and the media was making it up.
“Well I don’t recall that,” said Godwin.
We showed him his own letter to WREG News Director Bruce Moore saying the information was not true.
“That was based on the information given to me at that time,” said Godwin.
Godwin said someone on his staff told him there was no backlog, so that’s what he said.
Apparently getting wrong information is not uncommon, and being at the top doesn’t always mean in the know.
“I guess it just looks like if you are at the top, you know what’s going on,” Thompson said.
“Not really. Not really,” he replied.
It’s a reason to give pause as the city looks for a permanent Police Director to address growing crime.
Knowing the details and where the buck stops is a big part of solving the crime problem.
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