LAPD neglects rape cases

The L.A. police department failed to test 217 sexual assault kits before the prosecution deadline.

Published October 21, 2008 7:40PM (EDT)

A woman submits to an invasive DNA test after being raped. The very last thing she wants to do after the attack is to have nearly every orifice swabbed and her insides probed in a pelvic exam -- but, hell, she'll do anything to catch her attacker. Now, picture her rape kit sitting on a shelf in the city's forensics lab. For several years, as her attacker roams free, the kit remains there, untouched and untested, until the case is no longer prosecutable.

That story is all too common, according to the Los Angeles Times. A city audit found that Los Angeles police officials failed to test DNA kits for 217 sexual assault cases within the legal time limit for prosecution. The statute of limitations is 10 years. That's right: 217 rape kits were left untested for more than a decade.

What's more, the audit found that the city has a current backlog of 7,000 untested kits, and has failed to notify victims if their evidence kits are not tested within two years, as required by state law. City controller Laura Chick, whose office led the audit, said: "It is beyond disturbing that the thousands of victims who have undergone the invasive ordeal of [submitting to] these tests do not even know that their evidence is still untested."

The LAPD acknowledges the lapse, but suggests "that some of those cases had been prosecuted using other evidence," according to the Times. Yeah, pssh, who needs DNA evidence for a rape conviction?

Thankfully, the Times balances its journalistic take-down with an editorial attack. It points out that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and police chief William J. Bratton have focused on beefing up the police presence on the streets, without reasonably strengthening the investigatory infrastructure. In other words: "Inattention to rape evidence may be undermining the whole point of a larger department."

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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