UPD has 4 untested rape kits in evidence

Laura Dickinson, Managing Editor

The UW Oshkosh Police Department currently has four untested rape kits in its evidence refrigerator for various reasons involving the victims and state laws according to UP Law Enforcement Dispatcher and Evidence Custodian Bobbi Richter.

A rape kit is “a container that includes a checklist, materials and instructions, along with envelopes and containers to package any specimens collected during the exam,” according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, an organization whose goal is to raise sexual assault awareness and prevention.
The state of Wisconsin created a mandate back in 2011 stating when there’s “evidence upon which deoxyribonucleic acid analysis can be performed, and the person who committed the alleged or suspected sexual assault has not been identified,” law enforcement agencies should follow state procedures and should submit the evidence it collects to a crime laboratory.

UP Capt. Christopher Tarmann said the department itself does not have recorded guidelines about rape kits and closely relies on what the state of Wisconsin tells them.

“We do not have a written policy that says how we would test them,” Tarmann said. “I mean, we send them in based on what the victim wants or what the state requires.”

Tarmann said UP’s protocol when testing rape kits is related to the state’s mandates.
“This state process is pretty new,” Tarmann said. “I think it’s the last year and a half or two years where this law came out where they wanted to test untested kits and get a database on people who are in there. We have been coordinating with the state, so whatever they tell us to do is what we are doing.”
Tarmann said he does not know the exact reason there are four untested kits in the campus’ jurisdiction.

“We then lean on the state and see what they want,” Tarmann said. “Whatever kits we have now, the state was not looking to test those based off the situation or the case.”

While there is cost behind the examination, Tarmann said lack of University funding is not the problem behind testing the kits.
“I do know that the victim does not have to pay,” Tarmann said. “I am not sure who covers the cost; we do not worry about that. We just figure that part out.”
Richter said the campus police department sent in some of their untested kits with assistance from the state.
“The rest of them were sent down to State Crime lab in 2017 for testing through a grant that they received for untested kits,” Richter said.
Richter said the process of whether a test gets initially tested is based off whether a victim wants to press charges or not.
“If they want charges filed, then we go and pick up the kit from the hospital and send the kit to the state crime lab,” Richter said. “If they don’t want charges, then we store it in our evidence room in the proper refrigerator.”

Tarmann said he wants the campus community to feel safe and the UP to give assistance to victims any way they can.
“We obviously take sexual assaults seriously. We would do whatever it takes for the state to figure out what they need and what the victims can have as a resource,” Tarmann said.