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LAPD cuts backlog of untested DNA cases in half

The Los Angeles Police Department has cut in half a backlog of untested DNA evidence from rapes and sexual assaults, according to police figures.

In late 2008, amid increasing pressure from victims' rights groups and elected officials, LAPD officials acknowledged that nearly 7,500 evidence kits collected from rape and sexual-assault victims were languishing in storage freezers, never having been analyzed.

At the time, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LAPD Chief William J. Bratton vowed to address the issue, setting aside funds to help the department outsource the evidence to private laboratories at a faster pace and to bolster the LAPD’s own understaffed laboratory. Bratton also announced the formation of a task force of police and outside experts to oversee the effort.

In a letter, Bratton and Deputy Chief Charlie Beck, who heads the task force, updated its members, saying  the number of untested evidence kits had fallen to 3,157. At the current pace of testing, the LAPD would erase the backlog by the summer of 2011, Bratton and Beck wrote.

Unexamined evidence kits hold potentially crucial information. Through a complex scientific process, DNA analysts can extract a person's genetic code from the collected samples and compare it to those of known felons stored in state databases.

When a DNA sample collected at a crime scene or from a victim's body is matched to a DNA profile, it can offer prosecutors strong proof of a person's guilt. The evidence also can be used to confirm that someone has not falsely confessed to a crime or to link someone to other unsolved cases.

The LAPD’s push to clear the backlog has led to tangible payoffs: Examination of previously untested semen, blood or other genetic evidence matched the profiles of 405 men in the state’s databases, the letter said. The department is also on course to hire 26 additional lab staff members by next summer.

In an interview, Beck emphasized that an inventory of the evidence allowed the LAPD to prioritize cases for testing. Evidence from the several hundred cases in which detectives had no known suspects has now been tested, Beck says.

The effort, however, has not been without some setbacks. Plans to build a database to track each evidence kit have been stymied by technical and funding problems, and mandatory furloughs of civilian staff have  hampered work at the LAPD’s lab, Beck said.

The LAPD’s ability to finish the effort is also not assured. In the letter, Bratton and Beck warned that city officials will need to continue to commit funds to keep the testing on track – a tall order as the city tries to navigate through a fiscal crisis that has left a $400-million budget shortfall.

-- Joel Rubin

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Comments () | Archives (13)

Why are they bothering with this - our money would be much better spent rescuing some more rich bankers.

There are only so many dollars in any bank account.

You all have a choice. You can support funding for law enforcement in all its various departments including the crime lab....

Or, you can cut some of the funding for law enforcement and redirect that funding to the trendy programs that the political "activists" are always sniveling and crying about. You know, the programs that the "activists" benefit from themselves or from which the "activists" relatives or friends benefit from.

But you can't have it both ways.

I personally say fund the DNA testing project. The "activists" can get a job and quit sniveling.

Glad to hear rape victims are becoming more of a priority to law enforcement as it deals with its unconsciounable number of back logged DNA rape kits.

When sex crime victims truly see a change, maybe more victims will find the courange and strenght to come forward and report the crimes to police, get help and protect others. As of now, only about 8% ov victims every report the crime.

This might give rape victims something to hope for instead of being a survivor of yet another rape (DNA) that's just tucked away in a wharehouses somewhere.

Everyone has a duty to make it easier, not harder, for sex crime victims to come forward. Saldy, the Polanski case is another reason why crime victims often stay silent.

Money should never be an issue in situations as these. Maybe LAPD should consider cutting back on the number of high ranking BRASS, on the department, so that there would be money available to protect and serve the public better. This is ludicrous.

This is a great piece of news.

I wonder if DNA evidence still exists from the Roman Polanski trial.

I am apalled at the backlog of rape kit evidence to be analyzed! It shows me that the police force did not previously think it was a prority to seek justice against the rapists who committed these crimes. This is evidence, if analyzed in a timely manner, could identify suspects and help prove the guilt of such suspects in order to prevent other crimes and rapes from being committed. Instead, these survivors of violence had their bodies examined after a traumatic experience, just to have the evidence stuck in the freezer for years and not investigated in a timely manner.
I am gald to hear that analyzing the rape kits is becoming more of a priority. I think it's extremely important for the safety of survivors and the general public to have this eveidence analyzed to seek justice against the perpetrators of such violence.

Sure seems to be difficult to get the police interested in crimes against women.

Thanks, Jack Weiss -- for banging the drums on this for 8 years and pushing until the LAPD developed a specific plan to hire the in-house scientists needed to do the job, as the backlog continued to be clear til then by sending out the kits to available labs. Most of all, thanks for pushing the council and mayor to commit to the funding to get the job done.

LAPD has now set a national example, including for the much better-funded Sheriff's dept., which only this month after lots of negative pressure from Human Rights Watch and other groups, "found" the money to carry out this vital commitment.

But NOW with the talk of cutting back funding to LAPD, even reducing the cops on the beat from the often-given figure of 10,000 as min. needed to keep us safe to 9500 as the new members of Public Safety Committee and Budget Committee declared last week may be enough, will there be money for this? Everyone should remember every one of these "kits" is a rape victim demanding justice, with an attacker who may still be loose.

Sure Roman Polanski committed an act of criminal pedophilia, but there are rapists out on the Streets NOW, victims of rape NOW, who have not met justice for lack of funding and priorities, because this hasn' t been a "sexy" issue to the public and the media. let's hope the spotlight on Polanski extends to all these other victims waiting justice, so these criminals don't attack again.

don't forget, it's detention officers who take dna samples from all of the inmates that get booked into the lapd jail system. that sample then is sent to state's dept of justice. once again, detention officers are performing another critical task.

Right on Casey! Well said.

I am the mother of a recent 19 yr. old rape victim who was choked and raped while sleeping at a friend's house during her freshman year at college. I know what closure means when the DNA is finally matched and the attacker is arrested, charged and convicted. Public focus has been on pursuing Polanski, a predator that So. California has thankfully been free of for 30 years. Had he gone to prison then, he most likely would have been paroled in less than 10. Let's focus funding on expediting the testing of these kits and pursue predators that are CURRENTLY a threat to women in So. California and not make these victims wait 30 years for justice.

Some people say those of us who wish to end the War on Drugs and end the Religion of Hate Against Marijuana, are nothing but lazy idiots in favor of legalized rape, legal theft, etc… Hardly!

If our society (and all across the globe) weren't busy wasting hundreds of billions of dollars a year on the sheer idiocy of hunting down, persecuting, prosecuting, and locking up people because of plants, our society could focus on real crimes against real people, like rape. And not waste untold resources for the illusory crime of marijuana.

If you care about women's rights you should care about drug policy and terminating this exorbitant, credit crushing, "War on Drugs" with its spiraling out of control costs that never end! It makes no sense to send growers to jail where they could be raped! It makes no sense to increase the power of cartels who operate in our borders and outside of it, they treat women horrendously! Yes, by ending the Religion Against Marijuana you are preventing the rape of men too! You are yanking the rug out from under the drug cartels and their outlandish treatment of other humans.


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