$1.5 million federal grant will help expand sexual assault investigative efforts
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ/Press Release) – A $1.5 million U.S. Department of Justice grant has been awarded to the commonwealth to form the Kentucky State Police Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) Investigative Team.
To leverage existing investigative resources within the KSP Crime Lab, statewide investigative jurisdiction and existing connections with local law enforcement agencies, three trained investigators and a criminal intelligence analyst are moving from the Office of the Attorney General to KSP.
The team will continue to focus on investigating and identifying sexual offenders.
“For four years as attorney general, I fought to seek justice for victims of violent sexual crimes. We funded upgrades to the KSP Crime Lab, established the Cold Case Unit and worked to make sure the SAFE kit backlog never happens again,” Gov. Andy Beshear said. “This new funding allows us to continue this important work by ensuring investigators are able to analyze cases and ultimately help identify more offenders and link serial predators.”
The Justice and Public Safety Cabinet was awarded a grant by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) during the 2020 funding cycle. BJA’s SAKI funding is awarded to support projects that align with the national SAKI priorities.
KSP’s Victim Advocate Support Services also will assist victims throughout the investigative and legal justice process.
“Through the support and authority of KSP’s statewide jurisdiction, the SAKI Investigative Team will be able to maximize resources and provide victim-centered services to survivors,” Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Mary Noblesaid. “The team will work diligently to move cases from notification to conviction.”
“Kentucky has made outstanding progress in testing backlogged SAFE kits and closing unsolved crimes due to the tireless efforts of several state and local officials who were instrumental in changing the culture around the investigation and prosecution of sexual assaults. KSP is honored to join in the state’s response, and I promise that our investigators will be informed, effective and compassionate toward sexual assault victims and help them as they work to truly heal, recover and restore their lives stronger than ever before,” said KSP Commissioner Phillip Burnett Jr.
Trooper Janet Barnett, an investigator on the KSP SAKI Investigative Team, said: “As a state we must support all efforts to curb sexual assault and provide a voice to victims so they no longer have to suffer in silence, and the KSP SAKI Investigative Team is ready to be that voice. In partnership with cooperating victims, the SAKI Investigative Team pledges to leverage the vast experience of our investigators with the capabilities of the Forensic Laboratories to identify, evaluate and analyze the evidence in the cases related to sexual assaults and sexually motivated homicides.”
Dr. Bradley Campbell, a professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Louisville, said: “I am excited to assist in strengthening Kentucky’s progress to implement evidence-based policies that will better serve survivors of sexual assault. Over the next three years, the research portion of this grant funding will focus on improving the system’s response to sexual assault survivors by hopefully increasing the state’s ability to better examine outcomes of cold case investigations and aid in prosecutions.”
As part of the ongoing efforts to protect victims of sexual assault, Beshear also ceremonially signed HB 310, sponsored by Sen. Morgan McGarvey, of Jefferson County.
“The Cane Madden story is an awful example of a gap in the law that allowed some defendants to avoid both prison time and mental health treatment,” said McGarvey. “What this does is make sure that if you’re not competent to stand trial, you can get the treatment you need, or if you’re not competent to stand trial and aren’t responding to treatment, then the courts can petition and ensure someone is not released into an unsafe environment. This has been a bipartisan effort over the last two years and aims to seal that crack so people who are a danger to themselves or others can get the treatment they need and aren’t let back out on the streets too soon.”
The passage of the Safe Act in 2016 guaranteed the submission of all Sexual Assault Forensic Exam, or SAFE, kits, required law enforcement to receive training to conduct victim-centered sexual assault investigations and established timelines for testing kits.
As attorney general, Beshear made ending the state’s SAFE kit backlog and seeking justice for victims of sexual assault top priorities for his office.
In 2016, Beshear provided $4.5 million in settlement money to lawmakers to fund requested Kentucky State Police crime lab upgrades to help end the SAFE kit backlog.
Beshear provided an additional $1 million from the settlement to aid law enforcement and prosecutors in conducting victim-centered investigations and prosecuting sexual assault offenders.
In January 2017, Beshear created a Survivors Council to advise and assist his office on matters related to victims of crime. Its purpose is to ensure office efforts are victim-centered, effective and responsive to the needs of diverse victims.
In 2018, Beshear’s Office of the Attorney General hired a victim advocate, investigator, prosecutor and a SAKI coordinator and established a Cold Case Unit after receipt of a grant for nearly $3 million.
The original funds also allowed for the testing of an additional more-than-1,400 SAFE kits not previously identified, the hiring of a cold case investigator for KSP, a University of Louisville backlog research project and the formation of a SAKI task force.
In 2019, then-Attorney General Beshear announced his office had been awarded a $1.4 million federal grant to expand its Sexual Assault Cold Case Unit and further investigate and prosecute sexual assault cold cases, many of which resulted from the state’s SAFE kit backlog discovered in 2015.
Since the Cold Case Unit was established, local law enforcement and prosecutors have secured statewide indictments linked to the SAFE kit backlog, including 10 secured during Beshear’s term as attorney general. Four of the indictments from Beshear’s office have been connected to two serial offenders.