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LAPD backlog in DNA rape investigations?

September 16, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
A human man rights group is taking aim at the Los Angeles Police Department; accusing the department of failing to test thousands of DNA rape kits. The kits are often critical in the investigation of sexual assaults. Human Rights Watch wants the LAPD to address a reported backlog and begin processing thousands of still un-tested rape kits.

The group says the LAPD has more than 7,200 rape cases that have never been tested for DNA. This backlog is reportedly a nationwide problem, but according to Human Rights Watch, the LAPD has one of the biggest problems.

Tuesday morning the Los Angeles Police Commission took a very close look at the issue.

The LAPD told commissioners that they are working very hard to process the hundreds of kits currently in refrigeration. However, the challenge is money.

The LAPD estimates it will need $4.5 million in order to eliminate the backlog by 2013. In addition, that would mean hiring 16 new DNA technicians.

The department claims it has never stopped testing DNA rape kits, but the cases are coming in faster than they can handle.

Groups like Human Watch say, with 7,200 kits already stacked up, that is absolutely unacceptable.

"The more worrying factor is - actually - it's growing by about 500 rape kits per year. And this means that rape victims aren't getting justice," says Tiffany Siart, Human Rights Watch.

'We ought to do a better job of not just cleaning out the freezers, but the streets of rapists and murderers in this city. It ought to be job one," says Jack Weiss, Los Angeles City Councilman.

Councilman Weiss and the commissioners say the LAPD has an obligation to work through the backlog of DNA rape kits.

Chief Bratton says he is committed to working through the kits. He says the challenge is finding the funding.

"This is really a force multiplier in that the scientific capabilities allow us to supplement the efforts of our officers and solve crimes," said Alan Skobin, Los Angeles Police Commission.

 

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