UPDATE: DA, Chattanooga police chief support testing backlogged - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: DA, Chattanooga police chief support testing backlogged rape kits

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - Tennessee has thousands of untested rape kits sitting on evidence shelves statewide.

But now there could be a solution. And the solution originates from New York City. 

Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher said in a letter today that he plans to participate in the rape kit testing initiative. 

"First we intend to submit each and every inventoried kit, except for those cases where the victim will not consent to testing, or those cases where it can be determined that no crime was committed,"  Fletcher said. 

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. announced last year he is pledging up to $35 million in funding to eliminate untested rape kits nationwide. The goal is to test enough DNA evidence to match with potential suspects in a software database and hopefully solve cases across the country.

Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston wrote a letter to Vance on May 11 expressing his office's commitment to “meeting the conditions specified within the grant.”

Pinkston pledged to submit every local backlogged kit, unless it was determined no crime was committed or the victim never agreed to the invasive test.

In a November 2014 news release, Vance said “To have hundreds of thousands of rape kits untested is unacceptable. Rape victims nationwide deserve to know that the invasive examination they underwent had a purpose, and the resulting kit was not left to gather dust on a forgotten shelf.”

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation tells Channel 3 it plans to apply for the funding. Applications are due by June 1.

“At the end of the day, if we have the resources available and the funding in place, we want Tennessee's law enforcement departments to know if you want to clear those evidence vaults and send us the kits, we'll go ahead and test them," said Josh Devine, spokesperson for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Pinkston told Channel 3 the ultimate decision to test the kits will fall to individual law enforcement agencies.

"TBI is interested in getting that [grant], we fully support that and will prosecute any cases that come out of it," he said.

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office is using money from seizures to help fund the grant. The office will begin distributing grant money at the end of the summer. 

It will announce awards amounting up to $2 million for select states, territories, local governments, law enforcement agencies or public forensic labs. 

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