(NASHVILLE) — Approval by the Tennessee POST Commission of a model law enforcement policy on sexually oriented crimes will combat sex crimes and help survivors get justice according to Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) who sponsored the legislation calling for such approval by January 1.
The new law called for the state to develop and approve a model policy for law enforcement agencies for responding to reports of sexual assault by January 1, 2016 and requires law enforcement agencies to adopt a written policy on responding to reports of sexual assaults by July 2016.
The model policy, recently adopted by the Tennessee Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission, outlines a protocol for all Tennessee law enforcement agencies to utilize when conducting preliminary and continued investigations of rape or other sexually-oriented crime.
“The adoption of this model policy is a major step forward,” said Senator Norris. “This will help ensure that the best methodology and standards are utilized by law enforcement across the state when collecting evidence and investigating this deplorable crime. It will also encourage more survivors to come forward and report the crime in the renewed hope that the perpetrator will be caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Tennessee law enforcement agencies have until July 1, 2016 to either adopt the protocol as written, or to create or adjust their own policy to meet the minimum standards outlined in the model policy.
The General Assembly approved legislation sponsored by Norris last year to require all local law enforcement agencies to inventory back-logged sexual assault kits across the state. Memphis, which had an initial backlog of 12,000 kits dating back to the 1970’s in 2012, recently opened a new climate-controlled storage facility to carefully store and process the kits until justice can be served. Over half of those kits have been processed or are currently in laboratories for that purpose.
“We have come a long way in working through the initial rape kit problem and have become a model that other states with similar issues are looking at,” added Norris, who spoke to a national Sexual Assault Kit Summit this fall in Memphis. “Many localities across the country are struggling with the similar problems.”
“DNA evidence has revolutionized the way we apprehend and prosecute sexual offenses. I am very pleased at the way in which we came together to address this problem with the survivors as our focal point. We must continue working until every one of these kits are processed and exercise every resource available to bring justice and timely prosecution in the future,” Norris concluded.
Also see release from the Department of Commerce and Insurance at: https://tn.gov/commerce/news/22481