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Springfield's Police Chief Defends his Organization Following Negative CNN Report

Michele Skalicky

Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams is speaking out after a report on CNN November 29 detailed errors made by the department in sexual assault cases and rape kits that weren't submitted for testing and, in some cases, destroyed.

The report focuses on cases in 2012 or before.  The Springfield Police Department has made major changes in how it handles sexual assault cases since then, according to Williams, and the CNN reporter neglected to mention those.

"When we sat down with the reporter in the initial interview and in two years worth of additional interviews and correspondence, my initial thoughts were that it was going to be a very well balanced story about, 'here's an example of how things had been done in law enforcement in dealing with sexual assault cases and the victims,'" said Williams. "'Here's an example of an agency that's moved past that and made changes and is doing things the right way now.'"

Williams acknowledges errors were made in some of the cases highlighted in the CNN story.  During the time frame mentioned, he said, the Springfield Police Department was understaffed and under-resourced. 

The decision about whether or not to submit a rape kit for testing prior to 2014, he said, was made after communication between the police investigator, the prosecutor and the crime lab.  Since 2014, the department submits all rape kits for testing.

According to Williams, as of four years ago the department has handled sexual assault cases "completely differently, and we have not destroyed any kits...we've submitted them all for testing, and we've adjusted our protocals for investigations of sexual assaults."

Williams said the changes were made following training he and a lieutenant at the time attended.  Williams and (now) Captain Tad Peters attended the International Association of Chiefs of Police Violence Against Women executive training program.

He said he wants the community to know the Springfield Police Department is "absolutely victim-centered and traume informed and works closely with all our service providers who work wtih victims throughout the community."

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.