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Wintrow: Keep the momentum going

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Rape kits

Twin Falls Police Chief Craig Kingsbury talks about storing and processing rape kits while Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, Capt. Matthew Hicks and Victim Services Coordinator Kim Burkhalter listen June 5 in Twin Falls.

TWIN FALLS — Police chiefs from all over the state came to town this week for the Idaho Chiefs of Police Association Fall Conference.

On Tuesday, Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, sponsor of Idaho’s landmark sexual assault kit legislation, told the chiefs she wants to keep the momentum going when it comes to investigating and arresting sexual assault suspects.

During the last two legislative sessions, Wintrow set standards for processing sexual assault kits where there were no protocols. From the resulting law came an evidence-tracking system created at the state crime lab that can be used by sexual assault victims — the first such system in the nation.

The next step is to fix what she calls the disjointed funding of sexual-assault kits, she told the chiefs, who often struggle to find the money to process the kits.

The current system contains “a lot of moving parts, including a culture that blames the victim,” Wintrow said.

Often, the kits are billed to the victim’s insurance.

Would the victim of a home invasion be billed for fingerprinting? Wintrow asked rhetorically.

“We shouldn’t be billed for criminal justice,” Wintrow said. “Crime-fighting tools should be freely accessible.”

The reason why our police departments have made such big strides in this area is because so many people came together to solve this problem,” Wintrow said. “It took the cooperation of police, lawmakers, hospital officials, crime lab workers and others to modernize how we handle and process sexual assault kits. Now, Idaho is a national leader on this issue and I think there is more progress to come.”

The ICPA fall conference concludes today at Canyon Crest.

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