Updated 3:28 p.m.
Minneapolis police officials said Friday that the department's backlog of untested rape kits is much larger than previously thought. An accounting error traced back to 2015 revealed that MPD has nearly 1,700 untested kits — far more than the 194 reported back then.
During a morning news conference streamed by KARE-TV, Mayor Jacob Frey called it an “unjustifiable mistake” that predated his administration, as well as current leadership at the police department.
“We bring forward the findings today with humility and in the name of transparency,” Frey said.
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said Friday that back in 2015, an audit reported 194 untested kits. He said over the summer, he was informed that the number was actually closer to 1,700.
“We had a failure in terms of the auditing process of those kits. That is unacceptable,” Arradondo said.
Some of the untested kits go back as far as 30 years. Arradondo said the department is still unsure what led to the accounting error.
Department officials said the discovery happened when they were doing an inventory to be in compliance with a 2018 state law that tightened regulations for police agencies to send unrestricted rape kits to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for testing.
Deputy Police Chief Erick Fors said the kits themselves are still in the proper shape to be analyzed.
"These sex assault kits were properly inventoried, properly stored, properly maintained,” said Fors.
The department is working with victim advocates on finding the best way to notify those who had reported the assaults to police.
Kenosha Davenport, executive director of the Sexual Violence Center, said it will be a delicate process because they're tracking down people who may have already put a traumatic event behind them.
"Victims who maybe have not shared this with their partners or maybe not shared it with their children, that they're in a different time frame in their lives,” said Davenport. “And that's why it's so critical that the notification process and the protocols around that is done diligently and with the support of advocates."
State Rep. Marion O'Neill, R-Maple Lake, sponsored the recent state law dealing with untested rape kits. She said although the number announced by Minneapolis police is startling, it should be taken with caution.
O'Neill said some of the kits are restricted, meaning the victim did not give permission to process it. Still, O'Neill says the department should move as quickly as possible to clear the backlog to ensure any offenders are no longer walking the streets, especially those who might be repeat offenders.
"They can find hits with other cases,” said O’Neill. “So, it's very possible that out of those kits, you are going to find serial rapists.