As states across the country have opened their legislative sessions since the start of the new year, ENDTHEBACKLOG has been watching closely for rape kit reforms. Starting in 2010, the legislatures in Illinois, Texas and Colorado blazed the trail for mandating the testing of all rape kits booked into police evidence. Other states are beginning to follow their lead to varying degrees.
A courageous survivor named Helena and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy appeared alongside Mariska Hargitay to shed light on the backlog. Helena waited 14 years for justice. Worthy is working to address the backlog of over 11,000 in Detroit.
At the 2013 National Sexual Assault Conference, Joyful Heart presented a workshop on our research on victim notification and the rape kit backlog, defining victim notification and current practices across the country and walking the audience through the many decisions jurisdictions face when notifying survivors that their rape kits were part of a backlog. They were joined by a panel of experts who have direct experience with notification: Detective James Blocker of the LA Police Department (LAPD), Robert Taylor, Assistant Director of the LA Sheriff's Department (LASD) Crime Lab, and Anne Kinetra, an investigator with the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office.
Governor Jerry Brown has returned Assembly Bill 322 to the California State Assembly without his signature. AB 322 would have established a two-and-a-half-year pilot program to test all rape kits in ten California counties that make arrests in fewer than 12% of reported forcible rapes.
AB 322, California’s new rape kit bill, has been approved in the California State Assembly. It is now awaiting Governor Jerry Brown’s signature.
Update: California Rape Kit Bill Passes in State Senate; Seeks to Create Pilot Program for Processing Kits
A bill aimed at improving the backlog of untested rape kits in California has just passed in the California State Senate with a vote of 37-2. It will now be voted on in the assembly before heading to the Governor’s desk.
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.
California Assemblyman Anthony Portantino has introduced legislation in the state government to track and report untested rape kits and set a time limit for labs to process them. From an article on patch.com:
The bill, AB 322…would mandate that rape kits used for DNA testing be sent by law enforcement agencies to a lab within 30 days, and be processed within six months. Agencies would also have to send regular reports on the number of unprocessed rape kits to the [California] Department of Justice that would be also be available to the public.
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.
Late last week, there was considerable coverage in the L.A. press about the current state of the backlog of untested rape kits in Los Angeles County. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck was honored Friday by the California Forensic Science Institute for his efforts on the issue.