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DNA Testing of All Rape Evidence Urged

Policy: Two City Council members call for LAPD inventory and analysis of backlogged evidence, and checks with state's sex offenders database.


Alarmed at the LAPD's destruction of 1,000 untested rape-evidence kits, two Los Angeles City Council members proposed Friday that all such evidence in violent crimes be inventoried and tested for DNA.

Normally, detectives give priority to testing evidence when a suspect has been identified because there has not been enough money to test every rape kit.

A huge backlog of biological evidence has developed as a result, officials said.

In July, the Los Angeles Police Department admitted that it mistakenly destroyed about 1,000 packets of biological evidence, leading to an outcry by rape victims and their advocates.

The department has imposed a moratorium on destroying rape kits, but council members Jack Weiss and Jan Perry said during a news conference with rape survivors that much more needs to be done.

The council members introduced two motions, including one that would endorse pending federal legislation known as the Debbie Smith Act, which would provide grants to states to increase education, testing and analysis of DNA evidence.

"Whether or not it becomes federal law, there is no excuse for this city to keep doing business the way it has been doing business," Weiss told the council Friday.

The other motion asks the council to adopt a policy prohibiting police from destroying rape kits and other DNA evidence from violent crimes, and calls for an inventory and testing of all backlogged evidence.

Tested evidence should be put through the state's "Cold Hit" program, which matches DNA evidence with a database of known offenders, the council members said.

"DNA testing gives us the ability to identify and catch rapists who until now have gotten away with their crimes," Weiss said.

"This critical evidence is locked away in the LAPD's freezers while rapists are free to assault more women."

The council members proposed that the Police Commission report on the cost of testing all rape kits for DNA evidence and whether private labs need to be used to handle the workload.

The commission also was asked to develop a plan to test all evidence within 10 days of a crime, and to determine whether a proposed new crime lab needs to be redesigned to provide enough space to handle the DNA testing plan.

The proposal on expanding the crime lab is significant because the current design has the LAPD's DNA lab half the size of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's DNA lab in the joint facility, even though both agencies have the same caseload, said county prosecutor Lisa Kahn, deputy in charge of the district attorney's forensic sciences section.

The proposals were endorsed Friday by Jeri Elster, a rape survivor who has worked to change laws at the state and federal level to remove the statute of limitations on rapes for cases going back to 1995.

"It's a wonderful step in the right direction," she said.

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