After pressure from activists and politicians for more than two years, the Los Angeles Police Department declared that they have eliminated the backlog in rape kit testing. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Police Chief Charlie Beck announced that the LAPD has finally examined the 6,000 pieces of DNA evidence that languished in LAPD storage freezers for years. This evidence, which includes semen, blood, hair or other genetic materials, can help identify perpetrators of sexual assault by matching the DNA to felons in law enforcement databases.
Needless to say, the fact that these kits were not being tested was a source of outrage within the women’s advocacy community. A few years ago, a Human Rights Watch report castigated the LAPD for failing to act. The LAPD explained that their understaffed labs were running far behind, an excuse that was wholly unacceptable. Finally, though, according to the LA Times,
“Police officials cobbled together several million dollars in federal grants, public funds and private donations to cover the costs of outsourcing the testing to private labs. The mayor and police officials also pressed the City Council for permission to set aside funds to add more analysts to the LAPD’s lab despite a citywide hiring freeze.”
Mayor Villaraigosa pledged that such a situation will never occur in Los Angeles again. “For every sexual assault evidence kit, there is an individual — a mother, a daughter, a friend — who rightfully deserves justice,” he said. “We recognize that there is still a lot of work to accomplish.”
It’s wonderful that these kits were finally tested, but I’m not completely hopeful yet. The fact that it took years of pressure before the LAPD saw fit to process this evidence does not bode well for its commitment to testing rape kits in the future.
Photo from Flickr.