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Kentucky to become first state with new sexual assault technology

Governor Matt Bevin and Kentucky State Police said rapid DNA testing will give police DNA analyses in less than two hours, helping identify sexual predators.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky will become the first state in the country to use rapid DNA identification to further sexual assault investigations, Governor Matt Bevin announced Wednesday.

Bevin and Kentucky State Police introduced the ANDE Rapid DNA Identification System, saying after months of testing, they are certain the system will give police DNA results within 90 minutes.

"In less than two hours, we can do rapid DNA on exhibits to come up with suspects or to prove the innocence of those who have been falsely accused," KSP Commissioner Richard Sanders said.

Sanders said he hopes the new technology will reduce sexual assault crimes across the state, as well as minimizing Kentucky's current backlog of DNA test kits. With previous technology, Sanders said getting results from backlogs took weeks or months, which can hurt survivors of sexual assault looking for justice.

"Over time, they kind of have a tendency to want to go away," Louisville Metro Police Sgt. Tim Stokes who works with the Special Victims Unit, said. "And I don't blame them. Who wants to relive their worst nightmare for the next nine months?"

"Our delays, sometimes the victims step out of the system, out of the process," KSP Forensic Laboratory System Director Laura Sudkamp said. "The investigators, while we're working on case, they get a whole bunch more cases placed on their desk."

Credit: Dennis Ting

"If you are a sexual predator in the state of Kentucky, we're going to come after you," Sanders said.

With almost 2,000 sexual assaults reported every year, Justice Secretary John Tilley said the testing can quickly identify repeat offenders and prevent them from committing more crimes.

"In Kentucky, we believe in justice," Tilley said. "Regardless of where you live or work...you should expect to be safe from crimes of sexual assault."

"People do this and if they get away with it, they're more likely to keep getting away with it and many of them do," Bevin said. "You nip that in the bud early. This is the reason why what we're doing is impactful."

According to KSP, investigators will match the DNA profile returned by the test against a copy of the state database to try and identify the DNA. Eventually, the goal is to have the FBI accept and use the rapid DNA technology as well and to be able to match the profiles against a national database.

"This is to be one more tool that hopefully we'll be able to put in our system and bring justice to these victims just a little bit quicker," Stokes said.

Louisville state Senator Denise Harper Angel, who sponsored multiple bills relating to sexual assault kits, said she is excited about the new technology and its effect on sexual assault cases in the state.

“I am thrilled that Kentucky continues its commitment to provide swift justice of victims of sexual assault by becoming the first in the nation to use this technology," Harper Angel said.

Kentucky is the first state to embrace the ANDE Rapid DNA Identification System. The program is still in its pilot phase and law enforcement agencies have been using the new technology in tandem with the traditional methods in order to test its effectiveness.

"Let's pioneer this," Bevin said. "Will it be perfect? No. Will we have fits and starts and fine tune as we go? Of course. But let's continue to model something that others can replicate."

According to Sudkamp, the total cost to have all the labs in the state equipped with the system is around $3 million. Bevin said he promises that the program will be funded by his administration.