As many of you have heard, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) announced this week that they have ended their “historic” rape kit backlog of 6,132 kits, resulting in at least 300 new arrests. This is a significant milestone in the work to reform rape kit testing in Los Angeles city.
For the past three years, advocates in Los Angeles and nationally have worked together to end the LAPD’s rape kit backlog, and the news this week that the historic backlog has been tested is an accomplishment that sets up Los Angeles to be considered a model for the rest of the country.
Joyful Heart is pleased to have played a part in this reform along with a number of local and national organizations including Peace Over Violence, the UCLA-Santa Monica Rape Treatment Center and Human Rights Watch. Last year, we placed calls and wrote letters to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and then-Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton to encourage them to find the resources necessary to outsource all of the testing of the historic backlog, increase crime lab staff, and better track rape kit testing results. When Law & Order: SVU featured the rape kit backlog in the third episode of its twelfth More >
Late last week, there was considerable coverage in the L.A. press about the current state of the backlog of untested rape kits in Los Angeles County. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck was honored Friday by the California Forensic Science Institute for his efforts on the issue.
According to an Los Angeles Times, local law enforcement has announced that “it has made considerable progress analyzing DNA evidence from thousands of rapes and sexual assaults that had been left untested.” The article continues:
In late 2008, Beck’s predecessor, William Bratton, under pressure from victim advocate groups, tasked Beck with getting a handle on the thousands of pieces of evidence that had languished untouched in police storage freezers for years.
Ultimately, the department counted 6,132 untested rape kits, which contain samples of semen, blood, hair or other DNA material collected from victims’ bodies and crime scenes. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced it, too, had thousands of untested kits.
Both agencies committed themselves to clearing the backlogs and to test all viable rape kits going forward. The LAPD cobbled together funds from federal grants, public coffers and private donors to launch an aggressive push to outsource the evidence kits to private labs for testing.
At the same time, More >
One of our goals for the Backlog Blog is to help keep our wider community up-to-date on efforts to reduce the number of untested rape kits in localities all across the United States. From time to time, we’ll post news from around the country that highlights these efforts.
Yesterday, I came across an article in the San Francisco Examiner that discussed new legislation aimed to resolve the city’s backlog. Here’s one highlight from that article:
The Police Department would be required as part of its annual budget submission to report if it is meeting the goal of picking up rape kits within 72 hours of the reported incident, testing evidence within 14 days and testing other DNA evidence from the crime scene within a certain time frame, under proposed legislation.
I also found this quote from a local law enforcement official to be very heartening:
“Rape kits are the most valuable piece of evidence often in these cases. We support this 72-hour collection,” said Assistant Chief Denise Schmitt, who oversees the crime lab. She said the department has begun to meet that goal already.
Read the full article from the San Francisco Examiner.
And check back here on the Backlog Blog in the weeks ahead for More >