The Portland Police Bureau sent out a press release this week announcing the conviction of Jose Rosales on two counts of sex abuse in a case originally reported to police in 2006. In November of 2016, the Portland Police Bureau Detective Division's Sex Crimes Unit was able to identify Rosales based on evidence that had been in the state's rape kit backlog and was finally processed with funding from a Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Grant from the Department of Justice.
It's the first conviction based on evidence from the backlog, and PPB's release frames it as a something of a good news story. Obviously, it's a good thing that the backlog is being processed and crimes are getting solved. But taking 10 years to solve a crime because evidence wasn't processed in a timely way is symptomatic of a much larger problem. The PPB says it's working through an inventory of 1,700 untested kits.
Two years ago, I wrote a feature about why we have such a backlog, and how law enforcement can do better by victims of sexual assault. Here's what Detective Carrie Hull, the police officer pioneering a new, victim-centered law enforcement approach to sexual assault cases with the Ashland Police Department, had to say then about why a backlog develops:
“What we’re seeing in Oregon mirrors what we’re seeing across the United States,” says Hull. “I say that because we find as a profession in law enforcement that we really did not receive specialized training about this issue. And I’m not saying that as an excuse for anything that law enforcement did or did not do. It’s really just reality that within the last couple of years we’re just starting to see significant training that helps law enforcement understand the value of processing these kits. And there really is a significant value.”
The PPB's Sex Crimes Unit is encouraging anyone who has had a SAFE kit collected before 2015 and wants to know their kit's status to reach out to the Rose Project at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-823-0125. Information will only be released to the victim listed in the police report.