In September 2015, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office announced that the California Department of Justice (Bureau of Forensic Services DNA Lab) was awarded $1,606,239 in funding to test 2,000 rape kits, Alameda County District Attorney's Office was awarded $835,830 in funding to test 1,075 rape kits, Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office was awarded $1,841,535 in funding to test 2,400 rape kits, and Riverside Police Department was awarded $433,800 in funding to test 650 kits.
On September 30, 2014, Governor Brown signed legislation to amend California's Sexual Assault Victims' DNA Bill of Rights in an effort to prevent future backlogs. The legislation encourages law enforcement agencies, beginning on January 1, 2016, to submit newly collected rape kits for testing within 20 days of being booked into evidence. The law also instructs the crime lab to process rape kit evidence as soon as possible, but no later than 120 days after receiving it.
Regarding victim notification, the legislation amends the Bill of Rights to require law enforcement agencies to inform survivors, whether or not the identity of the perpetrator is known, if the law enforcement agency does not analyze the DNA evidence within certain time limits. Currently, such notification is required only in cases where the identity of the perpetrator is unknown.
In January 2015, additional legislation was introduced that would require all law enforcement agencies to submit an annual report of the number of sexual assault kits that were collected, tested, and untested. The bill has passed the Assembly and one Senate Committee, and now awaits action from the full Senate.
Although the state has made progress in rape kit reform, we still do not know the extent of the backlog in California—there is only information about the backlog at the local level, which is posted below. Like most states, California does not require its law enforcement agencies to track or count rape kits, making it difficult to know the extent of the rape kit backlog here. However a growing number of states, all across the country, are making real reforms to end the backlog. This can happen in California, too. Take action today to advocate for transparency and change from our elected officials.
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According to a state audit report released in October 2014, of approximately 1,900 rape kits that the Oakland Police Department, San Diego Police Department and Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department received between 2011 and 2013, the departments tested just 850.
In May 2013, Reporters uncovered more than 2,000 untested kits at police departments across Santa Clara County. The San Jose Police Department had over 1,800 untested kits in its property room. In the city of Santa Clara, the police collected 45 kits between 2009 and 2012, and sent seven for testing. The department had a total of 49 untested kits in its property room. The Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety collected 53 kits between 2009 and 2012, and sent 12 for testing. The department had 207 untested kits in its property room.
In March 2013, the Alameda County District Attorney's Office received a $1.5 million grant from Natasha's Justice Project to reduce the county's rape kit backlog. There were nearly 2,000 untested kits at police departments across the county. As of August 2014, the County had outsourced more than 100 of those kits for testing, resulting in 27 matches in the DNA database so far.
Through The Accountability Project, we have discovered a backlog of 2,873 untested rape kits in San Diego, and are using public records requests to bring the number of untested kits in Fresno, Sacramento and San Jose to light.
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