MAGIC VALLEY, Idaho — Idaho State Police (ISP) is working through a backlog of sexual assault evidence kits that's resulted in part due to the pandemic and the inability to train scientists as efficiently.
ISP usually has a 30-day turnaround when investigating each case, but they're now experiencing a 190-day turnaround because of the backlog.
"This has been historically an issue for us because we always have kits coming in through the door, always. That's been consistent over the years. Now, we had some time when we had the staffing to be able to work these. However, over time, especially when we factored in that we went back and scoured our state for kits that had never been submitted to the lab," Matthew Gamette, ISP Laboratory System Director, said.
After searching through the state, they found over 1,000 evidence kits that had never been submitted to their labs. They say this was partly due to law enforcement not knowing the cases had to be submitted, resulting in those cases not being investigated for years.
"That was unacceptable to us; it was unacceptable to the legislator. So we brought in a bolus of cases at one time, over a thousand cases that we brought in at a time, well for us that's over two years worth of work just there," Gamette said.
After receiving federal grant funding, ISP is looking at bringing on more staff members to help get caught up. They will also bring on new scientists that will work remotely for the first time. Those scientists will be in charge of looking at data and writing reports from home to help speed up the process.
"It's a different model than we've done before, but we're trying anything we can to get experience scientists working on these cases as quickly as we can and taking out some of that training time that we would have to commit to a new trainee," Gamette said.
Although it takes six months to two years to train new scientists, they hope to get caught up on this backlog as quickly as possible.
"We're trying to do a good job of prioritizing those cases that are going to court those that are needing investigative resources. So we're trying to address these things to get the survivors justice in their cases. Getting investigators the information they need so these cases could move to the criminal justice system," Gamette said.