AG Schmitt Hosts Second “Working Group” to Discuss SAFE Kits Initiative

Jun 18, 2019, 16:37 PM
Jun 18, 2019, 16:30 PM

Jefferson City, Mo. – Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and representatives from a variety of law enforcement, healthcare, and advocacy organizations gathered today in Jefferson City to discuss the progress and next steps in the SAFE Kit Initiative. The SAFE Kit Initiative is an effort to clear out the backlog of untested sexual assault kits in Missouri by gathering an inventory, creating a tracking system, and eventually testing certain kits.

Attorney General Schmitt launched the SAFE Kit Initiative in late February and appointed Judge M. Keithley Williams to lead the initiative. Since launching the initiative, the SAFE Kit Initiative Multidisciplinary Group has met twice to discuss how to best implement and move forward with the initiative and tackle issues facing the effort.

“Launching the SAFE Kit Initiative and appointing Judge Williams was an important first step as we move forward in logging, tracking, and eventually testing untested sexual assault kits in Missouri – if victims come forward and submit to a sexual assault kit, we need to honor that courage and ensure that those sexual assault kits don’t sit untested for years,” said Attorney General Schmitt. “Gathering these dedicated and knowledgeable individuals from across the state provides invaluable insight and discussion into the path forward with the SAFE Kit Initiative. Today’s meeting addressed important concerns with the initiative and discussed the impressive progress that we’re making with this initiative. I look forward to continuing to discuss the initiative with stakeholders across the state.”

“I’m looking forward to the day that when I’m asked about the number of untested sexual assault kits in Missouri, I have a clear answer. I’m grateful to be a stakeholder in this group and hope to continue to work with the Attorney General’s Office to hold those responsible for these crimes accountable,” said Jennifer Carter Dochler, Public Policy Director for the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

“It’s wonderful to be a member of a group made up of a variety of different voices and perspectives, including law enforcement, hospitals, advocates, and prosecutors – all stakeholders are focused on supporting victims and holding offenders responsible. Today’s meeting addressed the past, present, and future: how to best complete the inventory of untested sexual assault kits in Missouri, assuring that we’re compliant with Missouri state statutes moving forward, and implementing a tracking system so that the issue of a backlog will never happen again. I’m grateful for the Attorney General’s leadership on this issue,” said Springfield Chief of Police Paul Williams.

The SAFE Kit Multi-Disciplinary Group meets quarterly to track the progress of the SAFE Kit Initiative, air concerns and questions regarding the initiative, and discuss next steps. The group last met in March, and consists of representatives from law enforcement agencies and hospitals, as well as nurses, advocates, and other individuals dedicated to eliminating the backlog in an efficient and effective way.

In 2018, then-Attorney General Josh Hawley ordered a statewide audit of untested sexual assault kits and uncovered a backlog of thousands of untested sexual assault kits. Through a grant acquired from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Attorney General Schmitt launched the SAFE Kit Initiative and appointed Judge Williams to lead the effort on February 27th to address this backlog.

Since then, Judge Williams has worked with law enforcement and hospitals to begin gathering an inventory of untested sexual assault kits. Currently, the Attorney General’s Office has collected information regarding the backlog of untested sexual assault kits from 79 percent of Missouri hospitals and 45 percent of Missouri law enforcement agencies, a significant amount of progress.

A link to possible B-roll can be found here.

A link to the initial announcement can be found here.