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City Council OKs deadline for testing rape kits

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A resolution that requires Albuquerque police to test rape kits within three months of receiving them gained final City Council approval Monday.

The measure now goes to Mayor Richard Berry for his consideration.

Barring a veto, the three-month rule would go into effect when the Albuquerque Police Department Crime Lab is staffed with 10 full-time analysts, but no later than October 2018.

Councilor Pat Davis, the bill’s sponsor, proposed that trigger mechanism after consulting with APD.

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New Mexico has the highest number of untested rape kits per capita in the nation, according to an investigation by the state auditor. Of the 5,302 untested rape kits counted in November, more than 3,940 were collected during investigations in the Albuquerque metropolitan area.

City Councilor Pat Davis

City Councilor Pat Davis

The council approved Davis’ amendment and the resolution unanimously.

“I hope we can provide some assurance that we’re getting to the place we need to be,” Davis said, adding that he wants to make sure APD has time to ramp up the staff in its lab because he doesn’t want to set the department up to fail.

But the delay in the implementation has at least one advocate for sexual assault victims frustrated.

“A sexual assault victim who presents at Albuquerque (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners) tomorrow morning, regardless of their age … at best, our nurses can tell them that their kit might be tested, best case scenario, in October 2018. That’s just very discouraging to me,” said Connie Monahan, the SANE coordinator at the New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs.

Monahan said the time frame seemed inflated, though she acknowledged that it will take time to hire and certify technicians.

“It’s reality,” she said. “I understand that.”

Davis said he understands Monahan’s frustration, but “absent this (resolution), a person who comes into SANE tomorrow has no guarantee” that their rape kit will be tested.

The lab is now staffed with six full-time analysts and is poised to hire a seventh analyst in the near future, according to APD spokeswoman Celina Espinoza. She said the legislation calls for the additional three spots to be filled during the next budget cycle, which begins July 1.

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