Sexual Assault Kit Initiative training aims to educate, ease backlogs

by Dept. of Public Safety Staff

Regional training sessions help law enforcement, prosecutors, medical providers and advocates improve response in sexual assault cases.

February 18, 2020 (Bethel): The Department of Public Safety hosted the sixth of a dozen Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) training sessions scheduled to be presented statewide. The trainings are intended to increase the capacity of law enforcement, prosecutors, nurses, and advocates to utilize evidence-based best practices and to more effectively respond to victims of sexual assault. The daylong training sessions have been described by attendees as informative, comprehensive – and needed.

“We owe it to the survivors of these crimes to investigate and follow through on all reported sexual assaults,” said Colonel Bryan Barlow. “The SAKI best practices classes are critical to closing the loop on justice and providing closure to survivors across Alaska.”

In a highly publicized case last year, Carmen Daniel Perzechino Jr., 57, was indicted on two counts of first-degree sexual assault and one count of kidnapping after a sexual assault kit was tested as part of the SAKI project.

Instructors Tuesday included Alaska State Troopers Investigator Mike Burkmire and Assistant Attorney General Jenna Gruenstein. Burkmire is a 25-year Trooper veteran who came out of retirement to apply his expertise as the SAKI cold case investigator. Gruenstein works in the Alaska Department of Law’s Special Prosecutions handling SAKI-related matters and other cases, with a focus on sexual offenses and homicides.

In recent months, more than 100 people have attended SAKI regional training classes in Palmer, Kenai, Ketchikan, Juneau, Anchorage, and Bethel. Six more training sessions are scheduled for Fairbanks, Kodiak, Dillingham, Kotzebue, Nome, and Wasilla.