Legislation signed into law recently by Gov. Steve Beshear will have a significant impact on several Madison County law enforcement agencies.

The passage of House Bill 683, perhaps the most significant of all, will allow law enforcement and court officials to obtain the DNA of everyone convicted of a felony, including juveniles 13 years old and older and those convicted of violent and sexual crimes, a Justice and Public Safety Cabinet press release states.

“I am tickled to death to see that become a law,” said Berea Police Capt. Ken Clark, public affairs officer for the department. “Eighteen years ago when I started, of course the big thing was fingerprints — they are infallible, they are this, they are that. If you’ve got fingerprints it’s a slam dunk case. But now, because of the advent of DNA, it is as close to absolute proof as you can have in a case.”

The Kentucky State Police Forensic Lab, which processes DNA and other evidence for local and state law enforcement agencies, estimated that the legislation would yield about 15,000 samples each year for the state database. Those samples could bring with them the potential to solve an additional 250 cases per year, the release states.

“I think that it is going to be a huge plus for law enforcement, just simply because of the fact that once we get a database, every crime scene always has DNA,” said Richmond Police Sgt. Willard Reardon, public affairs officer for the department. “DNA is very true to it’s nature. It is about 99.5 percent accurate. That database may help solve some other cases down the road.”

Reardon’s only concern about the new law was the cost and who would pay for the testing to be done. But Clark said the procedure of taking DNA is very non-invasive now through a cheek swab.

Several agencies will become eligible for nearly $1.6 million of federal funding through the STOP Violence Against Women Act through Senate Bill 151. The bill prohibits police departments from mandatory polygraphing alleged sex offense victims. Both Clark and Reardon said they saw the benefits as well as the negative side effects which could result from the passage of this law.

“I can see both sides,” Reardon said. “From the law enforcement aspect, if you have a victim that may be questionable, and I’m not saying all cases, and you know the cases I’m talking about, where somebody comes in and maybe says they have been raped and it is unfounded. In those cases I can see maybe using (a polygraph) as a tool, but with the law basically prohibiting that, in those cases that will pretty much tie the hands of law enforcement not to be able to use that technique.”

However, while Clark agreed, he said it also is traumatic for victims who truly have been raped to have to re-live that experience while being subjected to a polygraph, all the time thinking that the police they have come to for help do not believe them.

Another law which Reardon said would help RPD significantly is the passage of Senate Bill 159, which exempts police service dogs, who sometimes are trained to bite while in the line of duty, from the 10-day quarantine law after biting a human.

“I think any police dog who is in service already has his shots and everything up to date,” Reardon said. “That is part of their training. With the passage of this law, for small departments like us that only have two dogs, taking one of our dogs off duty for a period of time is a very big strain on the other dog.”

Other significant laws passed were:

• House Bill 765 protects consumers from unknowingly purchasing or inhabiting property contaminated by methamphetamine.

• Senate Bill 13 will allow child victims and witnesses younger than 12 to testify through closed-circuit television or video when they are needed to protect them from the trauma of seeing the defendant in court.

• House Bill 696 will allow vehicle accident reports to be accessed through the Kentucky State Police Web site.

Kelly Foreman can be reached at kforeman@richmondregister.com or 624-6694.

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