Governor Jerry Brown has returned Assembly Bill 322 to the California State Assembly without his signature. AB 322 would have established a two-and-a-half-year pilot program to test all rape kits in ten California counties that make arrests in fewer than 12% of reported forcible rapes.
Governor Brown explained his decision to veto the bill:
“I don’t see why we would mandate counties to participate in a program they don’t want, especially when the state is cutting back on so many programs that are needed and wanted. Local officials are in the best position to determine whether to participate in such a program.”
Due to budgetary constraints, the scope of the bill had narrowed considerably since its introduction by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-Pasadena. Initially, AB 322 required jurisdictions to track and test all rape kits, but the version Governor Brown ultimately reviewed required only the ten counties with the lowest sexual assault arrest rates to eliminate their backlogs.
An extremely difficult fiscal climate in California’s government has narrowed the scope of the bill significantly since it was first introduced in the Assembly. Originally, and much like the laws recently passed in Texas (2011) and Illinois (2010), the bill would have required all jurisdictions to report on the number of untested rape kits in their storage facilities on an annual basis and to test all kits in a timely manner if sufficient resources are available. The bill now limits the counting and processing of rape kits to a pilot program in the ten counties with the lowest arrest rates for sexual assault.
The bill comes after several years of news about the backlogs in numerous jurisdictions in California, including Los Angeles City and County, which once had a backlog numbered at over 12,500 untested kits. To catch up on the progress of the state of the backlog in California, be sure to read past articles on the Backlog Blog here.
Update: California Rape Kit Bill Passes in State Senate; Seeks to Create Pilot Program for Processing Kits
A bill aimed at improving the backlog of untested rape kits in California has just passed in the California State Senate with a vote of 37-2. It will now be voted on in the assembly before heading to the Governor’s desk.
We posted about the bill, AB 322, that was introduced in the California legislature in February, which seeks to process rape kits in California in a more timely manner. Since it has been introduced in the Assembly, AB 322, has gone through several significant changes. While the legislation would still call on all jurisdictions to report the number of kits in custody that are not tested, instead of mandating state-wide testing of every kit, it would require some jurisdictions–those with very low rates for solving sexual assault cases–to test all kits in a state-mandated two-and-a-half year pilot program.
In the ten counties which would be part of the pilot program, fewer than 12 percent of rape cases are solved, Monrovia Patch reported in July. AB 322 would require law enforcement to test every rape kit they receive in an effort to improve these rates.
Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-Pasadena, has been pushing AB 322 through the legislature.
Portantino has introduced several bills aimed at reforming More >
In another step forward for rape kit reform, the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) announced this week that they have sent all their untested rape kits to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department crime lab for testing, the Santa Monica Daily Press reports.
The state of the SMPD’s backlog of untested rape kits came to light in a 2009 report by Human Rights Watch entitled “Testing Justice: The Rape Kit Backlog in Los Angeles City and County.” The report focused on the backlog in police and crime lab storage facilities in Los Angeles City, Los Angeles County, and the 47 cities within the county, of which Santa Monica is one. It found that there were as many as 485 untested rape kits that had been collected since 1996 in the Santa Monica Police Department’s storage facility were not tested.
“We are pleased to say that we zeroed in, made sure all kits were sent out and now we are clear of any backlog,” SMPD Captain Wendy Shirley said.
Prior to 2009, the SMPD did not send every rape kit to the crime lab for testing. The new policy of the department is to send every kit booked into evidence to the crime lab within 72 of More >
California Assemblyman Anthony Portantino has introduced legislation in the state government to track and report untested rape kits and set a time limit for labs to process them. From an article on patch.com:
The bill, AB 322…would mandate that rape kits used for DNA testing be sent by law enforcement agencies to a lab within 30 days, and be processed within six months. Agencies would also have to send regular reports on the number of unprocessed rape kits to the [California] Department of Justice that would be also be available to the public.
Portantino, a strong advocate of rape kit reform, has introduced similar legislation in the past, which passed in the legislature both times, but was vetoed by then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who cited a lack of available time and money on the part of law enforcement. From the press release issued by Portantino’s office:
“It’s unconscionable that thousands of rape kits remain unopened and untested across California,” stated Portantino. “Rape kits hold vital evidence that is crucial to a criminal conviction, while the clock is ticking on the statute of limitation for these crimes. It’s frustrating to know that a rapist could be walking free and a victim who suffered is further disrespected because a vital More >