0
0
0
s2sdefault
powered by social2s

Image of the Virginia State Seal

Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

 

For media inquiries only, contact:  
Lara Sisselman, Press Secretary
Phone: (804)786-1022 
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING HOSTS OAG COLD CASE SEXUAL ASSAULT TRAINING CONFERENCE AS PART OF PERK TESTING PROJECT

~AG Herring hosted law enforcement, prosecutors and victims' advocates for training conference in North Chesterfield as part of his $3.4 million initiative with the Department of Forensic Science to eliminate Virginia's backlog of untested PERKs~

NORTH CHESTERFIELD (October 12, 2017) - Today, Attorney General Herring hosted the OAG Cold Case Sexual Assault Training Conference at the Virginia State Police Training Center. The conference is part of Attorney General Herring's $3.4 million project to completely eliminate Virginia's backlog of untested rape kits. More than 65 law enforcement officers, prosecutors and victims' advocates from jurisdictions including Fairfax, Virginia Beach, Richmond, Chesterfield, Henrico and the Virginia State Police attended the two day conference.

 

"I'm so proud of the progress we're making in Virginia to clear out the backlog of untested rape kits, but once those kits are tested, that's where the hard work begins for law enforcement officers, prosecutors and victims' advocates who take part in reinvestigating a case," said Attorney General Mark Herring. "Today's Cold Case Sexual Assault Training Conference will give attendees the tools necessary to ensure all aspects of a sexual assault reinvestigation are completed using trauma-informed protocols that give survivors the comfort and respect they deserve, avoid revictimization and make it more likely that they will participate in the criminal justice process. I promise I will not stop until every kit is tested, survivors know the results, and each case gets a fresh look. That's what survivors deserve, and it's our responsibility to help them on a path toward healing and justice."  

 

Attorney General Herring arranged for nationally recognized experts in sexual assault case investigations to train attendees on aspects of a case including integrating trauma informed responses, interviewing victims and victim notification. Training sessions include "Investigating Sexual Assault Backlog Cases" and "Preparing to Try the Cold Case with Medical and Forensic Evidence and Experts." This training will help jurisdictions with investigations that may occur from Attorney General Herring's PERK testing project.

 

The first phase of the PERK testing project - for kits collected pre-2014 - remains ongoing, with more than 1,000 of the approximately 2,000 pre-2014 kits having gone to the lab for testing. Approximately 650 results have been returned to the state resulting in at least 57 matches to known profiles in CODIS, the national DNA database. Localities whose pre-2014 kits have been sent to the lab for processing include the cities of Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Richmond and the counties of Chesterfield and Fairfax. The first phase is supported by a $1.4 million grant from the Manhattan District Attorney's $38 million initiative to test 56,000 PERKs in more than 20 states.

 

The second phase of testing - for kits collected between 2014 and 2016 - is supported by a $2 million federal Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) grant secured in January 2016. Following a months-long effort to contact every law enforcement agency in Virginia, during which OAG secured 100% participation from agencies, an additional 1,247 kits were identified that will be sent for testing, though this number remains subject to some revision and confirmation by the SAKI program. Testing will begin after a laboratory contract has been finalized.

 

Once a kit has been tested, the resulting profile is communicated back to the DFS for entry in CODIS, the national DNA database. Any matches are communicated back to local law enforcement for further investigation. Attorney General Herring's team is working with each locality to implement best practices from the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance for re-examining cases whose kits produce a DNA match. The OAG is also working with communities and local law enforcement to develop trauma-informed, survivor-centered protocols for engaging survivors and updating them on the status of their kit and any results. Under a new state law from Attorney General Herring, survivors whose older kits are tested as part of this project will now have the right to know the result, and law enforcement will have the obligation to make a good faith effort to locate survivors and provide an opportunity to opt-in to the criminal justice process.

 

The SAKI grant will also allow the Commonwealth to invest in additional resources to improve the electronic tracking of PERKs, speed up the testing and analysis of PERKs, support survivors with a new dedicated specialist in the Office of Attorney General, and strengthen prosecutions with the latest specialized training for Virginia law enforcement.

 

###