The police department of Fayetteville, North Carolina has been destroying rape kits from 1995 to 2008 to make room in their evidence vault, according to recently publicized audit results.
Nearly 333 rape kits have been destroyed in this “cleaning” process.
"What we found was that a decision was made in 2006. The evidence vault was full and a decision was made to destroy the kits," Fayetteville Police Chief Harold Medlock reportedly said during a press conference Monday.
The commander of Fayetteville’s Special Victims Unit conducted an audit dating back 20 years to determine if a sexual assault unit for cold cases was necessary, the audit led to the discovery of the missing kits.
"I'm distraught, I'm frustrated, I'm angry that one person won't get justice because of our practices," Medlock told the room of reporters. "We can't put this issue on anyone but us."
Nearly all of the FPD employees involved in the decision to destroy the kits are retired, as reported by North Carolina news station, WTVD.
About half of the kits were associated with unresolved and cold cases and the others were from cases where the rapist was known to the victim, the victim could not be found or the victim recanted their statements.
Trauma from rape doesn’t just go away after five or 10 years, so why is it okay to just toss out the only remaining evidence that could possibly lead to an arrest, peace of mind and/or closure for a victim?
Out of all the kits, only 52 were from cases that were cleared by an arrest resulting in a plea agreement or a dismissal in court, according to the Fayetteville Observer.
Although the law changed in 2009 making it a felony to destroy rape kits, Fayetteville PD is in the clear because the cases that were destroyed were reported before then and all kits collected after Dec. 17, 2008 are accounted for, according to Medlock.
Regardless of the law, destroying rape kits is an overall poor decision when unsolved, cold cases can still be resolved later.
Just last year in Detroit about 1,600 backlogged rape kits were tested which led to the identification of 100 serial rapists who were still on the loose and 10 of them were convicted shortly after, Mic reports.
Even if rape cases go unsolved for an extensive period of time, the victims hold on to a glimmer of hope that the offenders will one day get caught.
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Fayetteville is not the first or only department to make this kind of detrimental decision. It’s truly sad to think that our law enforcement is feeding into the acceptance of rape culture in our society by diminishing the value of important evidence to trash.