The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which is facing mounting pressure to account for its handling of DNA evidence from sex crimes, revealed Tuesday that it has a backlog of 4,727 untested sexual assault evidence kits in storage or its laboratory.
Sheriff's Department officials informed the county Board of Supervisors that they are now auditing the unexamined kits to determine the status of each case. Sheriff's officials said priority will be given to kits nearest to the statute of limitation, which in most rape cases is 10 years.
The volume of kits in storage became apparent last month when -- in response to an inquiry by county supervisors -- sheriff's officials counted 5,635 sexual assault evidence kits in freezer storage facilities. In addition to those kits, which include semen and other DNA samples, the department has another 475 kits at the crime lab.
A review of those combined kits determined that 4,727 had not yet been tested. Of those untested kits, 3,770 are from areas that the Sheriff's Department patrols. The remaining 957 kits are from other law enforcement agencies that use the Sheriff's Department for forensic work.
Under a new policy recently ordered by Sheriff Lee Baca, all sexual assault kits gathered are now being tested -- a departure from a long-running practice in which the sheriff's crime lab analyzed evidence only after detectives handling a case requested it.
The scrutiny of the Sheriff's Department comes on the heels of an outcry over a backlog at the Los Angeles Police Department of about 7,000 sexual assault kits.