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Duluth Police: All backlog sexual assault kits tested, investigations ongoing

DULUTH, MN– Around this time last year, the Duluth Police Department was in over their heads.
Duluth was being called the worst city in the state when it came to efficiently testing sexual assault kits with hundreds of kits, some dating back to 1993.

Now, more than a year later, the department has submitted all of its kits and we’re learning the results of the testing.

415 untested SA kits were submitted at this time last year. Of that, 50% came back with a DNA match.
21 of those have been referred to the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office.  13 have faced charges and 3 convictions have been made.

The Duluth Police Department says it’s critically important to not fall behind on this initiative again not only to help get offenders off the streets, but also to bring peace and closure to victims of sexual assault.

A 180 from the Duluth Police Department. “A story that certainly was not flattering to the police department,” says Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken.

What was once a nightmare of hundreds of backlogged sexual assault kits has turned into an initiative for the DPD and the city.  Tusken says, “any sex kit that comes in the door today is tested and submitted for testing in 30 days.”

In 2018, Duluth took on The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative or SAKI a multi-year, federally funded project aiming to close pending cases.

“So not only wholesale policy changes but applied for grants that have brought in millions of dollars that have helped us to be able to influence change,” says the Police Chief.

Changing the way the department processes these kits, to ensure efficiency for officers and victims. “We have opportunities to reach out to victims and survivors who have never had any resolution in their case.”

Working alongside organizations that help victims heal.  Tusken says, “that success isn’t just DPD it is a partnership working with our partners at PAVSA.”

Ensuring safety, health, and welfare for the women and men in our community. “We have policies and practices that don’t allow us to continue to be backlogged.”

And allowing officers to pursue offenders and investigations, giving survivors the chance to move on.

Tusken says, “It’s truly really beginning so it is a long process.”

The Duluth Police Department will only pursue a criminal investigation into these kits if that’s what the victims want.

The department’s new policies are stricter than that of the state and they hope to lead an example for cities across Minnesota.

Jessie Slater

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