As many of you have heard, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) announced this week that they have ended their “historic” rape kit backlog of 6,132 kits, resulting in at least 300 new arrests. This is a significant milestone in the work to reform rape kit testing in Los Angeles city.

For the past three years, advocates in Los Angeles and nationally have worked together to end the LAPD’s rape kit backlog, and the news this week that the historic backlog has been tested is an accomplishment that sets up Los Angeles to be considered a model for the rest of the country.

Joyful Heart is pleased to have played a part in this reform along with a number of local and national organizations including Peace Over Violence, the UCLA-Santa Monica Rape Treatment Center and Human Rights Watch. Last year, we placed calls and wrote letters to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and then-Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton to encourage them to find the resources necessary to outsource all of the testing of the historic backlog, increase crime lab staff, and better track rape kit testing results. When Law & Order: SVU featured the rape kit backlog in the third episode of its twelfth season, “Behave,” our screening event in Los Angeles was attended by key members of the LAPD and city leadership, and our audience asked them tough questions about the backlog progress. Additionally, we serve on the Los Angeles Police Department Task Force, a multi-disciplinary group dedicated to oversight of the LAPD’s rape kit backlog progress.

For all the good news this week, there is still work to be done in Los Angeles. For the LAPD, the historic backlog represents those kits identified and counted as untested during a 2008 audit. Any kits collected by the LAPD after the 2008 audit and which have not been tested are considered part of the “new” backlog, which consisted of about 775 untested kits at the last count. In addition to the new backlog, the LAPD is still struggling with what some term the “secondary” backlog—a backlog of profiles that were obtained from rape kits outsourced to private crime labs and that are waiting for a technical review by the LAPD crime lab staff before they can be uploaded into CODIS, the national database of DNA profiles. There are currently about 500 profiles waiting in this secondary backlog.

We had an opportunity during a February event in Los Angeles to speak directly to Mayor Villaraigosa to thank him for his leadership and press him to build on the LAPD’s progress by hiring even more crime lab personnel, ensuring the LAPD have the investigative personnel necessary to follow-up on every lead generated by rape kit testing and implementing a comprehensive, holistic victim notification system. The Mayor heard us, and has promised to do what is necessary during his term to make sure that rape kit testing leads to justice.

We are very proud to be part of the movement to end the rape kit backlog in Los Angeles and across the country and we hope you will continue to stand with us to bring healing and justice to survivors. You can take action by becoming a rape kit reform advocate on endthebacklog.org, and by calling the Mayor and LADP to thank them, and to let them know that their continued efforts to test every kit, to notify every victim of the status of their kits and to deliver justice are important to you.

  • Mayor’s Office: 213.978.0600 or 213.978.0721
  • LAPD: 213.486.0150.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

The Los Angeles Police Department has cleared a decades-old backlog of untested DNA evidence collected in rapes and other sexual assaults and made hundreds of arrests because of the testing, the department reported Tuesday.

The accomplishment was tempered somewhat, however, by continued staffing shortages in the department’s laboratory that remains too small to keep pace with new cases.

You can read the full article here.