TBI rape kit processing time down by 38.6% since 2022, senator says

Published: Jul. 5, 2023 at 3:26 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 5, 2023 at 5:29 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee Senator Brent Taylor (R-Memphis) announced on Wednesday that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) has seen “significant progress” in staffing and sexual assault kit processing at TBI Crime Laboratories since the end of 2022.

In September 2022, the Tennessee General Assembly authorized adding dozens of new positions to TBI labs to expedite the processing of evidence in sexual assault cases.

Positions include forensic chemists, toxicologists, forensic biologists, firearms identification professionals, and latent print analysts.

The legislature has since approved 50 new crime lab scientists, 24 of whom were hired before the start of 2023.

“The TBI is making tremendous progress in hiring and training scientists for their laboratories,” Taylor said. “16 additional scientists have started their jobs since I took office in January, with six others hired pending background checks. These new hires have dramatically reduced the time to process sexual assault kits.”

These newly-hired crime lab scientists are being recruited from colleges, Taylor says, with a starting salary north of $66,000, up from the previous $45,000.

Taylor also said these scientists are being recruited from “all over.”

At the end of 2022, the turnaround time on a sexual assault kit at the TBI crime lab in Jackson—where Shelby County evidence is sent—was 43.8 weeks.

By the end of May 2023, the processing time for a sexual assault kit was reduced to an average of 26.9 weeks.

“It’s still taking too long, but TBI is making real progress,” Taylor said. “They’ve shortened the processing time for sexual assault kits from about 10 months down to six months. I’m optimistic turnaround time on these forensics will continue to decrease as the TBI brings on 10 additional scientists.”

In an interview with Action News 5, Taylor vowed to support Democratic Senator London Lamar’s bill to keep pushing for progress at TBI until turnaround time for rape kit processing is around 30 days.

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