City Controller Greuel Releases Audit on DNA Rape Kit Backlog
Backlog reduced but thousands still untested
||City Controller Greuel Releases Audit on DNA Rape Kit Backlog
Audit Finds Backlog Reduced, Thousands Still Untested
November 5, 2009
(Los Angeles) - Continuing her efforts to bring justice to thousands of victims of sexual assault and to make Los Angeles the safest big City in America, City Controller Wendy Greuel was joined by LAPD Chief-Designate Charlie Beck, LAPD Acting Chief Michael Downing and City Councilmember Greig Smith, to release her audit on the status of the LAPD's DNA Rape Kit backlog.
|An audit by the City Controller's office in 2008 caused a national
uproar to the thousands of untested rape kits waiting to be analyzed.
This included 217 kits that had exceeded the statute of limitations.
Controller Greuel recently conducted a follow-up audit to track the
LAPD's progress in reforming how they handle DNA rape kits.
Below, you will find the Controller's cover letter, and attached you
will find the entire audit.
|November 5, 2009
The Honorable Antonio Villaraigosa
The Honorable Carmen Trutanich
Honorable Members of the City Council
While the Los Angeles Police Department has made great strides in recent years to reduce crime throughout our City, one of its failures in the past has been how the Department managed the enormous backlog of rape kits.
An audit that this office released last year spurred action by City leaders to fund the positions necessary to begin to address this crisis. The audit found thousands of kits untested and dozens that were beyond the statute of limitations to use against a rapist. What appeared most frustrating was that we had the evidence in our labs to identify and ultimately convict the violent criminals, we simply needed to unlock the evidence.
My office recently completed the attached follow-up audit on the Forensic DNA Backlog Reduction Grant Program, which evaluates the LAPD's progress in implementing the previous audit's recommendations. While substantial progress has been made, the LAPD still has a long way to go to reduce the backlog and bring justice to the thousands of rape victims in Los Angeles. According to their statistics, the Department has reduced the overall number of kits in the backlog from 7,038 to 2,527, however, there is still substantial room for improvement.
Some of the findings of the audit include:
| The LAPD backlog numbers are inconsistent and it's difficult to give a final backlog number with complete confidence. The Department needs to immediately compare the difference in the rape kit reporting statistics with their physical inventory and eliminate the kits which have already been tested and include the untested kits that were not counted. If we don't have an accurate accounting of where we stand, it is impossible to say how much progress has been made.
The LAPD has outsourced the testing of kits to reduce the backlog; unfortunately, the FBI has a policy that requires all kits that are outsourced must be retested by another public crime lab, such as LAPD, to verify results. This delay is outrageous and has created a whole new backlog. There are now 1,102 kits that have to wait an average of 72 days for this SECOND REVIEW! We need to press the FBI to immediately change their policy.
The Department needs to work with experts in the field to create a better protocol for notifying victims. The LAPD should notify every sexual assault victim of changes in their case, regardless of the California State Penal Code which only requires that victims of a sexual assault occurring after 2004 need to be alerted if the law enforcement agency chooses not to analyze DNA evidence within the specified time limits.
While the LAPD has begun working with advocacy groups on a set of protocols for notifying victims, the Department needs to make every possible effort to notify a rape victim of the status of their case - and to ensure that this notification goes to them, and them alone. Officials making these notifications need to be properly trained to help counsel victims through this potentially traumatic experience.
The Police Department lacks a comprehensive - and modern - database designed to track untested rape kits. Currently, three different divisions within the LAPD - Robbery Homicide, Property and Scientific Investigation - maintain their own unique databases of untested kits. None of these databases are integrated and they may contain duplicative or even contradictory data.
The Department needs to do a better job in tracking backlogged kits and distinguishing those from new kits that are received. While the Department has made substantial progress in reducing the backlog of old kits, nearly 25% of kits that have been received in the last year have not been tested. If these new kits are not tested, we're simply creating a new backlog.
For increased transparency and accountability, the Department should prepare monthly written reports to the Council's Public Safety Committee and quarterly written reports to the entire City Council in order to increase accountability. The LAPD should work with the L.A. Sheriff's Department to standardize reporting guidelines. The reports should provide information including: the beginning monthly balance of kits; the number of kits tested each month; the number of new kits received each month; an ending monthly balance; and, the number of kits tested by private labs versus the number tested in-house.
Overall, I am pleased with the progress that the Los Angeles Police Department has made in the past year, under the leadership of former Chief Bratton and Chief-designate Beck. However, the Department and City leaders need to act swiftly to address the outstanding challenges that stand in our way to actually solving this crisis.
I look forward to working together to implement these recommendations and use them as a road map to making Los Angeles the safest big City in America for everyone.