In another step forward for rape kit reform, the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) announced this week that they have sent all their untested rape kits to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department crime lab for testing, the Santa Monica Daily Press reports.

The state of the SMPD’s backlog of untested rape kits came to light in a 2009 report by Human Rights Watch entitled “Testing Justice: The Rape Kit Backlog in Los Angeles City and County.” The report focused on the backlog in police and crime lab storage facilities in Los Angeles City, Los Angeles County, and the 47 cities within the county, of which Santa Monica is one. It found that there were as many as 485 untested rape kits that had been collected since 1996 in the Santa Monica Police Department’s storage facility were not tested.

“We are pleased to say that we zeroed in, made sure all kits were sent out and now we are clear of any backlog,” SMPD Captain Wendy Shirley said.

Prior to 2009, the SMPD did not send every rape kit to the crime lab for testing. The new policy of the department is to send every kit booked into evidence to the crime lab within 72 of collection. The LA County crime lab has been struggling with a large backlog of its own, but as of April 1st, only 82 kits remained untested of the 4,763 rape kits that had been part of the backlog in its storage facility.

Many rape kits yield new profiles of offenders that can be uploaded into CODIS, the national DNA database, and some link to profiles already in the database. For example, evidence found in one of the kits that was part of Santa Monica’s backlog connected a suspect to a series of rapes in Los Angeles; the offender was sentenced to 149 years-to life in prison.

Gail Abarbanel, director of the Rape Treatment Center at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center, told the Daily Press that while this news in encouraging, progress must continue to get all kits tested sooner and make convictions happen faster in the future.

“All of this progress is great, but we need to get to a place where kits are done in a timely way and we’ll save a lot of people from being hurt,” Abarbanel said.