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Sheriff's Department cuts backlog in testing rape kits

October 16, 2010 |  9:10 am

Officials at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have announced that they have completed counting and outsourcing nearly 5,000 backlogged rape kits that sparked controversy in 2008.

The kits still need to be tested and processed, but the Sheriff’s Department is on track to meet that goal in June 2011, spokesman Steve Whitmore said.

“It’s not only a good sign for the Sheriff’s Department, it’s a good sign for the county,” Whitmore said. “Everybody pitched in, and we’re on track. It shows what can be accomplished when everyone says ‘Yes, we’re going to do something.’”

Two years ago, when the number of untested kits was first disclosed, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors urged the Sheriff’s Department to eliminate the backlog, and agreed to help pay for the tests through the county’s general fund.

Since then, 4,763 kits have been sent out for testing at various labs, department officials announced earlier this month. Once tested, authorities can search for matches through a national database.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said that the backlog was caused by a poor monitoring system, and that a key objective now is to improve the procedure through which the Sheriff’s Department inventories and tests the kits.

The backlog needed to be cleared before a new system could be implemented, he said.

“This is a huge milestone for us,” Yaroslavsky said. “Some of these will produce hits who are rapists who are still walking the streets of California; it’s a treasure trove of opportunity to take dangerous criminals off the streets.”

-- Sam Allen