Cleveland's police chief explains backlog in DNA testing involving rape kit evidence

Public safety committee seeks answers

CLEVELAND - Cleveland's police chief appeared before the Public Safety Committee of Cleveland City Council Wednesday to explain how thousands of rape kits containing DNA evidence went untested for years.

Rape kits are obtained from victims of sexual assaults and can contain vital DNA evidence that can help link rape suspects to sexual assaults.

Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath defended his department's handling of rape kits saying, "DNA testing was not even the norm in Ohio until 2002."

An exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation last February revealed that Cleveland was among other cities across Ohio that stored rape kits on police department shelves for years without testing.

Since then, Cleveland has submitted 2,164 rape kits for testing that have resulted in 61 indictments by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office.

McGrath told the committee that, in January 2010, he directed that all rape kits be submitted for testing to a state crime lab.

McGrath said that led to a backlog of testing until a new sexual assault initiative was launched by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

"So, in 2012, when Attorney General Mike DeWine came on board, he was made aware of this and he took the necessary measures to insure that he had the equipment and the staffing to test these particular kits," said McGrath.

McGrath said he has also dedicated four police detectives to a special cold-case unit operated by the prosecutor's office.

Cleveland police estimate another 1,836 rape kits will ultimately be sent for testing.

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