As you know, two weeks ago Mayor Parker announced that the city would allocate funds to clear the backlog of rape kits, thus bringing to a conclusions one of the city’s longest-standing issues. City Council has now unanimously approved the plan, in which out of state labs will provide the analyses. What was fascinating to me about this was the statistics cited at the end of the story:
Council members C.O. Bradford and Helena Brown raised concerns about the cost of bringing experts in from Utah and Virginia to testify, should cases resulting from testing the backlog go to trial.
Parker said the $4.4 million should cover all needed testimony, including that related to the active cases being outsourced, adding the city has farmed out DNA testing and flown experts here to testify for years. Even if the initial amount falls short, she said, there are several million dollars left in the budget set aside to tackle the backlog.
HPD Assistant Chief Matt Slinkard said both labs awarded contracts Wednesday have cleared other jurisdictions’ backlogs, and reported that expert testimony was required in fewer than 1 percent of such cases. Slinkard said cases also may be reopened and adjudicated without a need for expert testimony.
Parker said she expects few local cases to be affected by the testing of the backlog, because many have long since been closed or adjudicated, whether because other evidence was sufficient to bring charges, the victim was not willing to prosecute, or other such factors. The hit rate was “incredibly low,” she said, when other cities tackled their own backlogs.
New York City exonerated one defendant after working through its 16,000-kit backlog, first identified in 1999. As of 2009, the testing had produced 2,000 hits matching DNA profiles in law enforcement databases and 200 investigations, arrests or prosecutions, according to the Joyful Heart Foundation, which works to raise awareness of sexual and domestic violence.
Los Angeles’ backlog of 6,132 rape kits, made public in 2008, produced about 1,000 hits in law enforcement databases, according to the Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles police officials in 2011 estimated the number of arrests generated by the backlog testing in the “dozens.”
First, I had no idea there had been such backlogs in other cities, though I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised by that. Second, I had no idea that so few of the kits led to some kind of action. I don’t know what I should have expected, but whatever that is, it wasn’t this. To be clear, this is a worthwhile and absolutely necessary thing to do regardless, and the Council’s unanimous vote of approval shows the support for doing this. HPD also has a bunch of DNA samples from property crime cases to process, and getting all of this done sets the stage for better and more timely handling of this evidence going forward. I just thought this was interesting.