Politics

State Auditor-elect Mike Harmon says he will continue outgoing Auditor Adam Edelen’s investigation of untested rape kits in the state.

Edelen’s office recently uncovered more than 3,000 untested rape kits in evidence lockers of local and state law enforcement agencies throughout the state. The Auditor’s Office released a report on untested rape kits in September, but Edelen’s office had planned to continue looking into the issue. Despite Edelen’s election defeat last week, those plans will move forward.

“The initial count is done, but the work is not done,” Harmon told Kentucky Public Radio.

Harmon, a Republican, defeated incumbent Democrat Edelen in last week’s general election. He said he promised Edelen that he’d “continue to champion” the rape kit issue.

“We certainly can’t go back to where we were before, obviously,” said Harmon, currently a state representative from Danville.

Harmon said he’ll work to make sure that uncounted kits get tested and to keep the state from getting in the same situation again.

Sen. Denise Harper-Angel, a Democrat from Louisville, said she will propose legislation based on Edelen’s recommendations on the rape kit issue. Edelen proposed requiring local law enforcement agencies to submit rape kits to the state lab within 10 days of receiving them. He also recommended requiring the state forensics lab to test the kits within 90 days.

In an email, Edelen spokeswoman Stephenie Hoelscher said that before the election, the auditor’s office was “planning to play a large role in lobbying for rape kit reform in the legislature.”

Along with Harmon, newly elected Attorney General Andy Beshear said he will work to test the untested rape kits.

“I’ve made the commitment to using the attorneys in our office, working with local prosecutors and investigators to follow up on every single DNA hit we get,” Beshear said.

DNA from rape kits are supposed to be added to the FBI’s national database, which can match DNA profiles to identify an attacker or link an attacker to previous crimes.

Beshear, a Democrat, said he’s also favors increasing funds for the state crime lab — the central testing center for rape kits and other forensic material.

“I am very in support of additional funding to the crime lab. Because it’s not just these rape kit backlogs, it’s the turnaround on DUIs,” Beshear said.

Rape kit exams are usually conducted at hospitals, logged into law enforcement agencies’ property evidence rooms and may then be sent to the Kentucky State Police Forensic Laboratory.

But no law requires law enforcement agencies to submit rape kits to the state forensic lab for analysis.

(Featured image of state Auditor-elect Mike Harmon. Credit: J. Tyler Franklin)

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.