March 31, 2009

VI. Untested Rape Kits in Police Storage

It wasn't until we started to ask how many are in police storage that never made it to the crime lab in the first place, that we realized how many kits never got tested.
-Sexual assault nurse examiner who serves Los Angeles County[115]
I guess I would not be surprised if my rape kit was still not tested. The police officer who took my statement didn't seem to take my story that seriously. He waited hours to take me to a hospital to get a rape kit taken, and along the way he stopped to run personal errands. If it was up to this police officer to decide whether my kit is worth testing, I am betting that he decided my kit wasn't worth his time.
-Rape survivor in Los Angeles[116]

For years rape treatment advocates in Los Angeles County sensed that many rape kits law enforcement agents were collecting from victims were not being tested. And we now know that nearly 1,000 kits are currently in the Police and Sheriff's Departments' crime labs awaiting testing (as Chapter V describes). While this number is significant, it was not until rape kit advocates prevailed upon the Police and Sheriff's Departments to count the number of untested kits in police storage facilities-kits that had never been submitted for testing-that the enormous scope of the rape kit backlog in Los Angeles was disclosed.

Los Angeles County has the largest known rape kit backlog in the United States. As of January-February 2009 there were at least 12,669 untested rape kits in Los Angeles County's 88 cities: at least 5,193 in the Los Angeles Police Department storage facility, 4,727 in the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department storage facility, and at least 2,749 in storage facilities in the 47 cities in Los Angeles County that have their own police departments (but rely on the Sheriff's Department's crime lab for rape kit testing).

The Police Department first released to the public a count of untested rape kits in police storage in 2007,[117] and the figure of 5,193 is from a detailed audit in February 2009. Until November 2008 the Sheriff's Department had not counted the untested rape kits in its storage facilities. As of March 2009, due to pressure from Human Rights Watch and other advocacy groups, it has counted and catalogued its untested rape kits in more detail (to Human Rights Watch's knowledge) than any other police department in the US.

Still, the large number of untested rape kits in Los Angeles County, and the delays between when the Police and the Sheriff's Departments were aware that there may be untested rape kits in their storage facilities and when they took serious steps to address the issue, make it especially important that the Police and the Sheriff's Departments' current responses to their rape kit backlog are part of a comprehensive, specific plan that is made known to the public and subject to monitoring and oversight.

History

Rape treatment advocates and providers have long asked the Sheriff's and the Police Departments to count the number of untested kits in their storage facilities.[118] As one rape treatment provider in Los Angeles told Human Rights Watch, "We would tell [the police] that, based on the fact that most of us-the victims, the nurses who administered the rape kit collection, the advocates-never heard back from the police about test results, we thought there were a lot of rape kits that were never submitted for testing at the crime lab. But when we would ask them to go into the police storage to count the kits, the Police and the Sheriff would keep sending our queries to the crime lab, that would give us the number of untested kits in the crime lab."[119]

Los Angeles Police Department

Although the untested rape kits in the Los Angeles Police Department storage facilities date back to at least the early 1990s,[120] the problem of untested rape kits did not become public until 2002, when the Los Angeles Times reported that the Police Department had destroyed 1,100 untested rape kits.[121] The story explained that the Police Department had destroyed the kits that were more than six years old because it mistakenly believed the statute of limitations for rape in California was six rather than ten years.[122]

"It was when we heard that untested rape kits from police storage were destroyed that we realized that untested rape kits had existed in police storage, that not every booked rape kit gets tested," said Los Angeles City Councilmember Jack Weiss, the first and for five years only Councilmember involved in the issue of eliminating the rape kit backlog.[123] As a result of this news Councilmember Weiss proposed and the City Council passed an ordinance that prohibits the Police Department from destroying untested rape kits.[124]

From 2002 to 2008 Councilmember Weiss pushed for higher staffing levels in the DNA unit of the Police Department crime laboratory, with mixed results. Some positions were approved, but, in the words of a city council staffer, "It was slow going: Progress was made in fits and starts, in part because we had trouble getting the Police and the mayor to request more funding for DNA positions in the budget."[125] During this time period, the Police Department received several million dollars in funding from the City Council[126] and (as noted in the previous chapter) $4 million in funding from the federal government to reduce its DNA backlog,[127] but it is unclear how much, if any, of the money was used for rape kit testing. Finally, in May 2008 the City Council authorized the crime lab to hire 16 additional DNA analysts, but those positions were not funded until November 2008.[128]

Although news of the destruction of untested rape kits in 2002 made it clear that, in Councilmember Weiss's words, "the rape kit backlog was not just what was in the crime lab queue waiting for testing, but also what was in police storage," it took pressure from rape treatment providers over the next five years to convince the Police Department to release to the public a count of untested rape kits in police storage.[129] As one rape treatment advocate told Human Rights Watch, "They told us they didn't think there would be much in there, but I felt like they counted those kits to placate us."[130]

The number of untested rape kits that the Police Department has said are in police storage has changed a number of times over the past two years. In its first public disclosure, in January 2007, the Los Angeles Police Department announced that it had found approximately 5,000 untested rape kits in its storage units.[131] That number grew to 7,300 by July of 2008,[132] but with the February 2009 audit putting the number of untested rape kits in the region of 5,193, the Police Department contends that the 7,300 number represented an inaccurate count on its part.[133]

Los Angeles Sheriff's Department

After 2002, rape treatment providers had also persistently requested that the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department count the number of kits in its storage facility. As one rape treatment provider told Human Rights Watch, "They would tell us they were certain there were no untested rape kits in their police storage facility, and would send us to their lab people to talk about any backlog questions we had."[134] In May 2008 Human Rights Watch sent a public records request to the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department requesting information on the number of untested rape kits in both its crime lab and storage facilities. In its July 2008 response to our request the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department indicated that it did not have a count of the untested rape kits in storage, and that to produce such a count would be a "prohibitively time-consuming process to hand search these large evidence storage facilities."[135]

Human Rights Watch contacted the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and requested that the Board ask the Sheriff's Department for a count of untested rape kits in storage,[136] which the Board did at its October 2008 meeting.[137] Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky noted at that meeting, "The [Los Angeles Police Department] disputed the fact that they had a backlog of kits. They finally came to [their senses]-everybody had the understanding that they had backlogs. I have asked the same question of our Sheriff's Department, and so far you have indicated, the Sheriff's Department indicated that there is a really small number of untested kits."[138] At the meeting, the Sheriff's Department responded to Supervisor Yaroslavsky's remarks by indicating that it had 20 untested kits in storage, but as the supervisor noted, "The way I understand it [according to your public records request response to Human Rights Watch], the way you guys have organized [rape kit] evidence is that the stuff … is buried … and it's almost impossible to determine-that you couldn't answer [to Human Rights Watch] the question of how much the backlog was, you would have to go through every case manually. In other correspondence you guys have said you only have a backlog of 20 in one unit and none that you are aware of in the other unit. And those two responses are contradictory."[139] Robert Taylor, assistant director of the Sheriff's crime lab, said at the meeting, "If rape kits are not brought into the lab, we do not know they are out there."[140] Crime lab officials added, "What we call a backlog is the number of cases that have been requested to have DNA evidence or DNA testing done."[141]

Also at the October 2008 meeting, the Sheriff's Department revealed that in 2002 it received a state grant to test rape kits.[142] After "scouring" the Sheriff's Department's storage facility and contacting independent police departments in Los Angeles County for which the Sheriff's Department's crime lab provides rape kit testing services, the Sheriff's Department reported they tested 980 rape kits.[143] This "scouring" led the Sheriff's Department to be "fairly comfortable that as of 2002, we are fairly caught up, so to speak in terms of sexual assault kits."[144] The Sheriff's Department confirmed that since 2002, however, it had not gone through the storage facility to count rape kits.[145]

By the November 2008 Board of Supervisors meeting, the Sheriff's Department had counted the rape kits in its main storage facility and found 5,635 kits, but said that "many of the kits, we think" had been tested but sent back to the facility for storage.[146] At the meeting, the Sheriff's Department announced a "three phase" plan to determine the nature and scope of the backlog. Phase I was a count of every sexual assault kit in the Sheriff's Department's storage facility, which had already been completed.[147] The Sheriff's Department also announced a new policy to test every rape kit booked into police storage. It said that the policy further required every booked rape kit to be sent to the crime lab.

However, the written document was a memo, not an official policy, and although the memo stated every rape kit should go to the crime lab, it did not explicitly require the crime lab to test every kit it received.[148] It also did not establish a system for prioritizing the processing of the kits sent to the lab. When Human Rights Watch raised concerns about this omission, we were told, "It's implied that we will test the kits. Why else would we have everyone send them to us?"[149]

Phase II was a count of how many rape kits in Sheriff's Department storage have not been tested.[150] At the December Board of Supervisors meeting, the Sheriff's Department revealed that at least 4,727 kits in storage had not been tested.[151] At that meeting the Sheriff's Department announced that Phase III of its plan involved, for each untested rape kit, going through the file of the criminal case connected to the kit to determine the nature and investigative status of the case.[152] By the end of January 2009 it had gathered status information on 70 percent of the cases in question (see below).

Current Nature and Scope of the Rape Kit in Storage Backlog

Since Human Rights Watch began researching the rape kit backlog in Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles, the dynamics and reports of the scope of the problem have constantly shifted in both the Sheriff's and Police Departments. In a nine-month period, the Police Department's declared backlog expanded and then contracted, the City Council funded additional crime lab positions, the Police Department replaced the chief deputy in charge of eliminating the backlog,[153] the controller of Los Angeles audited the Police Department's use of federal funds, the federal government penalized the Police Department for not using its allocated federal funds by reducing its fiscal year 2009 grants by $500,000, and Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton announced the formation of a task force to eliminate the rape kit backlog.[154]

Given these shifting dynamics, Human Rights Watch acknowledges that some information in this section may be outdated by the time this report is published. Still, the information below represents, to the best of our knowledge, the status of the rape kit in storage backlogs in Los Angeles County as of February 2009.

Los Angeles Police Department

In February 2009, the Los Angeles Police Department announced the results of the audit of its untested rape kits in storage facilities.[155] Of the 53,368 items of evidence in Police freezers related to all types of cases, 11,077 were Sexual Assault Evidence Kits.[156]Since a single "case" or victim can have more than one kit, there were 9,911 actual sexual assault cases. Of these 9,911 cases, the associated kits in 4,718 cases had already been tested. This leaves a total of 5,193 cases with untested kits.[157] Of these 5,193, there are 770 sexual assault cases that are ineligible for input into the DNA database, because the investigating detective determined that no crime actually occurred.[158]Subtracting these 770 ineligible cases leaves 4,423 untested cases eligible for the FBI's CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) database;[159]the Police Department has determined this number to be its "true backlog."[160] Human Rights Watch considers any untested rape kit to constitute part of a backlog.

Of the Police Department's untested kits, 403 belonged to cases where no suspects were connected to the cases,[161]while 188 untested kits belonged to rape cases that were older than 10 years, thus past the 10-year statute of limitations. The Police Department has not yet revealed the number of untested kits in its storage that are older than two years (as already noted, testing within two years and obtaining a DNA profile lifts the statute of limitations), or the number of stranger rape kits that are older than 10 years.[162]As Deputy Chief Charlie Beck told Human Rights Watch, "We are sobered by the untested kits in suspect-less cases. There is no excuse for us not to be testing those kits."[163]

The Police Department reports that its next step is to increase its outsource testing of rape kits to private crime labs across the country, for the purpose of reducing the backlog to zero by 2013.[164] This increase in outsourcing started in January 2009, with 490 kits sent to private laboratories.[165]

The Police Department has stated that the 4,423 cases that can be entered into the CODIS database, as well as all future cases, will be tested. A new evidence tracking database will, according to the Police Department, "ensure that all sexual assault victims are notified as required, and that no untested cases are allowed to exceed the statute of limitations."[166]

Los Angeles Sheriff's Department

In January 2009 the Sheriff's Department, as part of Phase III of its assessment of the nature and scope of its rape kit backlog, reported that it had been able to gather case status information on approximately 3,313 of the 4,727 untested kits in its storage facility.[167]

Prior to the cataloging of the untested rape kits a Sheriff's Department official told Human Rights Watch, "There should not be any cases of unidentified suspects that have not been tested. That is what we are hopeful we'll find. We are hopeful there will be zero."[168] In fact, of the 3,313 kits catalogued, 25 percent (815) belonged to cases in which the suspect was not known to the rape victim.[169] In addition, 311 of the 3,313 kits are beyond California's 10-year statute of limitations for rape; 106 are within six months of being 10 years old; and 261 kits are within six months of being two years old.[170]

Of the 311 kits that are more than 10 years old, 51 are from stranger rape cases. Of the 261 kits that are approaching the two-year deadline, 66 are from stranger rape cases.[171]

For crime lab officials interviewed by Human Rights Watch after the release of these numbers, the results seemed sobering. "We wanted to believe-we did believe-that we would not find untested kits involving stranger rapes, and we would not find kits that were past the 10-year mark. We thought we were testing every kit out there that needed to be tested, and we were wrong. Well, this is why we needed to make it the policy to test every booked rape kit."[172]

Cities with independent police departments

Excluding Los Angeles, there are 47 cities in Los Angeles County that operate independent police departments.[173] Human Rights Watch's research reveals that at least 2,749 untested rape kits are sitting in their police storage facilities. This number is certainly an underestimate of the problem, given that of the cities that responded to our public records requests, only 30 provided us with data regarding untested rape kits in police storage. Moreover, most of the rape kit data only go back to 1995, when many police departments upgraded their evidence tracking systems from a paper to an electronic system. In addition to untested rape kits in storage, Human Rights Watch found that at least 1,529 untested rape kits have been destroyed.

Data From Human Rights Watch Public Records Requests[174]

City

Reported Rapes

Rape Arrests

Rape Kits Booked into Evidence

Rape Kits Sent to the Crime Lab

Destroyed Rape Kits

Untested Rape Kits Currently in Storage

Since 1980

Hermosa Beach [175]

39 (2000)

5 (2000)

65

47

U

U

Sierra Madre [176]

8 (1995)

1 (1995)

3

3

0

U

South Gate [177]

240

165

121

102

U

U

Since 1982

South Pasadena [178]

33 (1994)

9 (1994)

7

3

0

4

Since 1985

Palos Verdes [179]

12 (1995)

5 (1995)

12

3

2

7

Since 1986

Gardena [180]

263 (1995)

80 (1995)

200

27

85

88

Since 1987

Pasadena [181]

281 (1998)

U

229

64

144

21

Manhattan Beach [182]

82 (1995)

21 (1995)

56

10

27

19

Since 1989

Vernon [183]

21 (1996)

15 (1996)

13

3

6

U

Since 1990

San Marino [184]

3

1

1

1

1

0

Since 1991

Claremont [185]

114 (1995)

21 (1995)

55

15

4

39

Since 1995

Alhambra [186]

174

39

75 (2002)

13 (2002)

0

U

Arcadia [187]

57 (1999)

17 (1999)

40 [188]

5

18

16

Baldwin Park [189]

137

58

42

42

0

U

Bell Gardens [190]

154

52

116

84

U

U

Beverly Hills [191]

96

31

U

1

U

34

Glendora [192]

64 (2000)

28 (2000)

51

27

1

23

Hawthorne [193]

95

25

405 (1983)

173 (1996)

U

U

Huntington Park [194]

214

96

U

U

U

U

Inglewood [195]

604

192

U

44    ('01-'09) [196]

U

244    ('01-'09)

Long Beach [197]

1,732

532

1,911 (07/94)

51 (08/17/06)

 831 (estimate)

1,072

Monrovia [198]

110

70

70

70

U

0

Pomona [199]

648

47 (2004)

213

37

37 (est.)

139

San Fernando [200]

76

35

U

11 (2001)

0 (2001)

24

San Gabriel [201]

54

5

42

3

9

33

Santa Fe Springs [202]

43

12

U

2

17

16

Santa Monica [203]

508

192

U

U

U

485 (1996) [204]

Since 1996

El Monte [205]

402 (1995)

250(1995)

177

21

99

57

Redondo Beach [206]

359 (1980)

45 (1995)

127

18

75

34

Torrance [207]

280

78

U

8

0

48 (1985)

West Covina [208]

421

222

323

12

97

214

Since 1997

El Segundo [209]

42

20

U

U

U

9

Since 1998

Covina [210]

168 (1995)

U

38

2

14

24

Since 1999

La Verne [211]

51

8

27

2

3

22

Since 2001

Azusa [212]

107

25

U

U

U

U

Whittier [213]

100

32

33

9

22

2

Since 2002

Downey [214]

290 (1995)

77 (1995)

135

26

5

U

Glendale [215]

230 (1995)

U

U

2

U

38

Maywood/Cudahy [216]

66

21

39

39

0

11 (returned untested)

Montebello [217] (Nov. '02)

209

58

64

22

16

26

Signal Hill [218]

19

U

16 (3/13/02-7/21/08)

0

0

U

Date Unknown

Bell [219]

19 (12/01)

3 (05/03-12/11/06)

U

U

U

U

Irwindale [220]

17

11

6

6

6

0

Monterey Park [221]

69

30

118

79

10

U

No Information

Burbank [222]

160 (1995)

--

--

--

--

--

Culver City [223]

74 (1995)

U

U

U

U

U

Total

8785

2634

4830

1087

1529

2749

While the police departments of these 47 cities do not rely on the Sheriff's Department for policing duties, they do send rape kits to the Sheriff's Department's crime laboratory for testing.[224] Although the Sheriff's Department is developing a plan to test every rape kit booked into evidence through the Sheriff's Department staff, it has not yet determined how to address untested rape kits in police stations outside of the Sheriff's Department. One senior officer remarked to us, "There are going to be sovereignty issues. We can't demand that they send kits to us, but we can strongly encourage them and try to think of incentives for them to send us the kits. We had a state grant a couple years ago to test rape kits and we went to city police departments and told them to send us their untested rape kits, and it was like pulling teeth to get them to respond."[225] The Sheriff's Department is currently soliciting information on untested rape kits from independent police departments in the county.[226]

The failure of some police departments to provide information about rape kits is not limited to Human Rights Watch requests. A Sheriff's Department crime lab official told Human Rights Watch that recent requests from the Sheriff's Department to independent police departments for the number of untested rape kits in their storage facilities have "mostly gone unanswered. They don't respond to our request for information. They won't count the rape kits in their storage facility, even for us."[227]

Consequences of Untested Kits in Police Storage

It was difficult for Human Rights Watch to find rape victims who knew that their rape kit was sitting untested in a police storage facility in Los Angeles County. One reason may be the lack of information available to victims regarding their rape kits.

Under California law the Police Department and the Sheriff's Department must notify victims in stranger rape cases if their rape kits were not tested within two years of collection. It is unclear whether the Police Department has a system in place to comply with this requirement. When Controller Laura Chick conducted an audit of the Police Department's use of federal DNA grant programs, exit interviews with Police Department officials indicated that they were unaware of the law's existence.[228] The Sheriff's Department appears not to have a system for compliance with the law. It has an internal directive dictating in what circumstances officers must notify rape victims,[229] but under questioning from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in November 2008, the Sheriff's Department revealed that it could not determine whether any rape victims whose kits went untested had been notified of that fact.[230]

Rape treatment providers and advocates in the Los Angeles area could not recall ever hearing of a victim being informed about the testing status of her rape kit. The mother of a rape victim in Los Angeles told Human Rights Watch about how difficult it was to get information about the status of her daughter's rape kit: "My daughter was raped by her supervisor, and we also thought he used a date rape drug. After she got the kit collected, after a few weeks, we called the police to get an update, to ask if the blood tests had shown the drug, but they didn't return our phone calls, and then when I got someone on the phone, they told us that they were waiting to decide whether to test the kit. I have called them once a week for eight months, and I still don't know whether her kit was submitted for testing or not. Mostly, I have only succeeded in annoying them."[231]

Many victims may assume their kit was tested. Gail Abarbanel, director of the Rape Treatment Center at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center, told Human Rights Watch, "The last time many rape victims see their rape kit it is in the hands of a police officer. The assumption is that if the police have the kit, it will be tested."[232] A sexual assault nurse examiner told Human Rights Watch, "My clients seem to assume that if they have not heard back from the police, it is not because testing was not done; it was because testing was done but there was no DNA in the kit. Not hearing from the police can contribute to the self-blame and doubt that victims are feeling about the rape."[233]

Based on their own reported numbers, the Police and Sheriff's Departments will have hundreds of victims who were raped by strangers and whose kits were not tested within two years of collection. To come into compliance with California law, the Police and the Sheriff's Departments will have to inform the victims of this fact. It will be a delicate task: As the nurse examiner quoted above commented, "Some rape victims may have already tried to move on from the rape. To hear from the police again, out of the blue two years after the rape, may reintroduce the trauma for the victim. However the police decide to do this, they need to make sure they consult with rape victims' advocates on how to best give victims this kind of information."[234]

Conversations with Professionals

To understand the dynamics and effects of the rape kit backlog, Human Rights Watch spoke with rape treatment providers, sexual assault nurse examiners, and police officers about cases in which rape kits were not submitted for testing:

  • A police officer in the Los Angeles area described why he often does not submit rape kits for testing: "I am not going to submit a kit when we know who the alleged perpetrator is. I am also not going to submit a kit when I don't think the case is founded, where something about the victim's story just doesn't add up. As you know, some people report a rape to get back at their boyfriend, or to hide from their parents that they were having sex with their boyfriend, or all sorts of reasons. So, you don't just test every rape kit that comes to you."[235]
  • A rape treatment provider told Human Rights Watch about a victim who was raped at a party: "The police seemed to focus a lot of their attention on the fact the girl was drinking, and not as much on the fact of her physical injuries. She had tears inside her vagina, consistent with forced [penetration]. You could just sense that while they were interviewing the girl about the case, they were not going to be taking this case that far. I called them a few months later, at the girl's request, to see if the kit was tested, and they told me they were going to wait and see whether to test it. I told my client, and she told me she didn't want to be a part of the investigation anymore. She felt like the police didn't believe her anyway."[236]
  • A police officer in the Los Angeles area told Human Rights Watch, "Rape is a tough crime to investigate. And sometimes, you are not going to request the DNA testing unless you feel certain that a rape really did occur, and that testing the kit is going to help you further the investigation. Most rape cases are 'he said/she said,' and a rape kit isn't going to help you figure out who is telling the truth."[237]
  • A rape treatment provider told Human Rights Watch of seeing four sex workers come to her clinic in a nine-month period, all with similar descriptions of the man who raped them: "I worked for months to get the police to test these kits, to see if they could match the cases together. The same things that made these women vulnerable-their life on the streets-also made them suspect to the officer, and he was convinced these were simply cases where the sex worker didn't get paid by her [customer], and they retaliated by reporting a rape. My response was, 'They retaliated by submitting to the lengthy rape kit collection process?' I think sometimes the officers just don't get rape."[238]

Elimination of the Rape Kit Backlog in New York [239]

In 1999 the New York Police Department (NYPD) discovered that it had a backlog of 16,000 untested rape kits in its storage facilities. Under the directive of then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and then-Police Chief Howard Safir, and with budgetary support from the New York City Council, the NYPD sent every untested kit to a private crime lab for testing with a goal of getting test results back from every kit by 2003. While the kits were at the private lab the NYPD, the New York City DNA Lab, and the Manhattan District Attorney's Office implemented policies to ensure that the rape kit backlog would remain eliminated. The NYPD was directed to send every new booked rape kit to the crime lab for testing; the crime lab hired additional DNA criminalists to keep up with the increased number of kits entering the testing queue; and the Manhattan District Attorney's Office established a specialized cold case unit, staffed by two senior attorneys, to investigate any leads from testing the backlogged kits. The crime lab also created a notification system for cold hits; when the DNA profile from a tested rape kit matches a profile in the DNA database an electronic system ensures that the crime lab, Police, and District Attorney's Office are all notified at the same time.

As of January 2009 the tested kits yielded 2,000 cold hits and 200 active investigations, arrests, or prosecutions. Testing the rape kit backlog also exonerated a wrongfully convicted defendant. While the DNA test results identified assailants in stranger rape cases, they also created leads in cases that police and prosecutors were not expecting. For example, prosecutors told Human Rights Watch of tying the same assailant to multiple acquaintance rape cases that might otherwise have been difficult to move through the criminal justice system: "We had an assailant who raped drug addicts coming to him to buy drugs. These are women who may be particularly vulnerable to rape because of their addictions or their socioeconomic status, but whose cases are hard to get a jury to believe. But when we could connect the same guy to a number of rapes, we could get a conviction."[240]

Since the rape kit testing was completed in 2003, the NYPD has seen its arrest rate for rape increase dramatically, from 40 percent to 70 percent of reported cases, and there are increased numbers of prosecutions and convictions for rape. New York City law enforcement officials admit that testing every booked rape kit takes a significant financial commitment, but "we had the political will to do it, and now, the policy is a no-brainer given all the rapes we have been able to solve and prosecute."[241]

[115] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with sexual assault nurse examiner, name withheld, Los Angeles, CA, May 7, 2008.

[116] Human Rights Watch interview with rape survivor, name withheld, Los Angeles, CA, February 11, 2009.

[117] Human Rights Watch interview with Councilmember Jack Weiss, May 6, 2008.

[118] Human Rights Watch telephone interviews with various sexual violence experts in Los Angeles put the date they first inquired about counting untested kits in police storage at around 2002, when news broke that the Los Angeles Police Department had destroyed untested rape kits. See also Tina Daunt and Steve Berry, "LAPD says evidence destroyed," Los Angeles Times, July 30, 2002, http://articles.latimes.com/2002/jul/30/local/me-dna30 (accessed January 25, 2009).

[119] Human Rights Watch interview with rape treatment provider, name withheld, Los Angeles, CA, May 16, 2008.

[120] City of Los Angeles Office of the Controller, "Audit of Forensic DNA Backlog Reduction Grant Program Awards," http://www.lacity.org/ctr/audits/DNA_FinalReport_102008.pdf (accessed March 13, 2009), p. 8.

[121] Daunt and Berry, "LAPD Says Evidence Destroyed," Los Angeles Times. Assistant Chief Sharon Papa confirmed the details of the Times story in a May 5, 2008 interview with Human Rights Watch.

[122] Ibid.

[123] Human Rights Watch interview with Councilmember Jack Weiss, Los Angeles City Council, Los Angeles, CA, May 5, 2008.

[124] Human Rights Watch interview with Los Angeles City Council staff member, January 26, 2009.

[125] Human Rights Watch interview with Los Angeles City Council staff member, name withheld, Los Angeles, CA, May 6, 2008.

[126] Ibid.

[127] Memorandum from the LAPD and LASD to Congressman Howard Berman regarding his request for information on DNA, Forensic, and Cold Case grants awarded to the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

[128] Human Rights Watch interview with Los Angeles City Council staff member, January 26, 2009.

[129] Human Rights Watch interview with Councilmember Jack Weiss, May 6, 2008.

[130] Human Rights Watch interview with rape treatment advocate, name withheld, Los Angeles, CA, August 4, 2008.

[131] Henry Weinstein, "Slow Pace of DNA Processing Examined," Los Angeles Times, January 11, 2007, http://articles.latimes.com/2007/jan/11/local/me-evidence11 (accessed January 26, 2009).

[132] Report from the Los Angeles Police Department to the Los Angeles City Council Public Safety Committee, unpublished document on file with Human Rights Watch, July 2008.

[133] Report from the Los Angeles Police Department to the Los Angeles City Council Public Safety Committee, unpublished document on file with Human Rights Watch, January 2009.

[134] Human Rights Watch interview with rape treatment provider, name withheld, Los Angeles, CA, August 11, 2008.

[135] Letter from Los Angeles Sheriff's Department to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, July 3, 2008.

[136] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Joel Sappell, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chief of Policy, Los Angeles, CA, September 18, 2008.

[137] Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors hearing transcript, October 7, 2008, http://file.lacounty.gov/bos/transcripts/10-07-08%20Board%20Meeting%20Transcript%20(C).pdf (accessed January 27, 2009), p. 98.

[138] Ibid.

[139] Ibid., p. 101.

[140] Ibid., p. 107.

[141] Ibid.

[142] Ibid., p. 120.

[143] Ibid.

[144] Ibid.

[145] Ibid., p. 127.

[146] Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors hearing transcript, November 12, 2008, http://file.lacounty.gov/bos/transcripts/11-12-08%20Board%20Meeting%20Transcripts%20(C).pdf (accessed January 27, 2009), p. 76. The Sheriff's Department has a directive requiring officers to notify rape victims of the status of their rape kit testing. See, "Los Angeles Sheriff's Department Field Operations Directive 05-07, Sexual Assault Victims' Bill of Rights" (the "Directive"), unpublished document on file with Human Rights Watch. The Sheriff's Department is currently conducting an audit to determine compliance with the Directive, and is also in the process of revising the Directive to require an annual review of compliance at all the Sheriff's Department's stations. Human Rights Watch e-mail correspondence with Captain David Walters, March 1, 2009.

[147]Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors hearing transcript, November 12, 2008, p. 76.

[148] Ibid.

[149] Human Rights Watch interview with Commander Earl Shields, Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, Los Angeles, CA, November 12, 2008.

[150]Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors hearing transcript, November 12, 2008, p. 88.

[151] Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting transcript, December 16, 2008, p. 112.

[152] Ibid.

[153] Human Rights Watch interview with Anthony Pacheco, president, Los Angeles Police Commission, Los Angeles, CA, November 11, 2008.

[154] Richard Winton, "200 sex assault cases pass prosecution deadline before LAPD tested DNA kits," Los Angeles Times, October 21, 2008, http://articles.latimes.com/2008/oct/21/local/me-dna21 (accessed March 13, 2009).

[155] "LAPD Progress Report on Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Backlog," Los Angeles Police Department News Release, February 9, 2009. Between October 2008 and February 2009, 50 LAPD detectives dedicated a combined 2,000 hours to counting the kits in police storage facilities. Ibid.

[156]Human Rights Watch attendance, Los Angeles Police Department task force meeting, February 12, 2009.

[157] Ibid.

[158] Ibid.

[159] The Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), the FBI's national offender database with over 6.5 million entries, allows state and local authorities to electronically share and compare all DNA profiles available at local, state, and national levels for individuals convicted of crimes, unsolved crime scene evidence, and missing persons. Although DNA evidence is inarguably beneficial to criminal investigations, the retention of DNA profiles raises issues about individuals' privacy and rights. DNA evidence can be erroneously matched, and samples can be cross-contaminated, mislabeled, or misinterpreted. With the passing of Proposition 69, the California DNA database now retains samples from all adults and juveniles convicted of a felony, as well as all adults arrested for any felony. Some believe that this undermines the "innocent until proved guilty" presumption of the criminal justice system and violates the privacy rights of individuals not yet convicted of a crime. Civil rights groups have also expressed concerns that the database is likely to disproportionately contain the DNA profiles of young African American and Latino men, who are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. Tania Simoncelli and Barry Steinhardt, "California's Proposition 69: A Dangerous Precedent for Criminal DNA Databases," The Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics, Volume 3, Number 2, Summer 2005, p. 286.

[160] Human Rights Watch attendance, Los Angeles Police Department task force meeting, February 12, 2009.

[161] Ibid.

[162] Ibid.

[163] Human Rights Watch interview with Deputy Chief Charlie Beck, Los Angeles, CA, February 12, 2009.

[164] Ibid.

[165] Ibid.

[166] Ibid.

[167] Letter from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department to the Board of Supervisors regarding sexual assault kits, January 27, 2009, unpublished document on file with Human Rights Watch.

[168] Human Rights Watch interview with crime lab official, Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, name withheld, Los Angeles, CA, November 12, 2008.

[169] Letter from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department to the Board of Supervisors regarding sexual assault kits, January 27, 2009, unpublished document on file with Human Rights Watch.

[170] Ibid.

[171] Ibid.

[172] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with crime lab official, name withheld, Los Angeles, CA, January 27, 2009.

[173] Human Rights Watch sent public records requests to each city in Los Angeles County with an independent police department. The results of those responses are documented in the chart below.

[174] For purposes of this chart, the number "0" indicates that the responding city actually searched and found no items responsive to the request; the letter "U" stands for "unknown," and indicates any of the following possible scenarios, or any combination thereof: (1) the city did not provide us with responsive documents for the item in question; (2) the city did not maintain a separate record of the item in question; (3) obtaining the information would require searching each individual rape case file to determine what evidence was collected; (4) obtaining the information would require searching each individual property sheet to determine the disposition of the evidence; (5) the city determined it did not have adequate staff to search for the responsive documents; (6) the city did not maintain a uniform record keeping system and rape kits may be classified or identified in a variety of ways; (7) the city's automated system did not allow for a search of this type; and/or (8) the city provided some information, but we were unable to interpret it in a meaningful way or get clarification from the city. Note, however, that the scenarios described above were also true for a number of the cities that did provide responsive documents.

[175] Letter from Deputy City Clerk Jackie Drasco, Hermosa Beach, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, December 5, 2008.

[176] Letter from Records Supervisor H. Hartunian, Sierra Madre Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, January 6, 2009.

[177] Letter from T. Matthew Hansen for City Attorney Raul Salinas, City of South Gate, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, December 19, 2008.

[178] Letter from Custodian of Records Sergeant Mike Neff, South Pasadena Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, December 15, 2008, clarified by telephone interviews with Sergeant Neff, January 5 and 6, 2009.

[179] Rape kit information: letter from Jim Menjou, assistant to the chief, Palos Verdes Estates Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, December 23, 2008; rape and arrest information: e-mail from Lead Service Officer Linda Williams, Palos Verdes Estates Police Department, to Human Rights Watch, February 10, 2009.

[180] Letter from Support Services Supervisor Betty King, Gardena Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, August 27, 2008.

[181] Letter from Records Administrator Karen Peterson, Pasadena Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, September 4, 2008, clarified by telephone interview with Alicia Patterson, January 5, 2009.

[182] E-mail from Support Services Technician Barbara Rosenberger, Manhattan Beach Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, January 2, clarified by telephone interview with Ms. Rosenberger, January 6, 2009.

[183] Rape kit information: letter from Records Manager Danita Robertson, Vernon Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, August 25, 2009; rape and arrest information: letter from Ms. Robertson to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, August 11, 2008.

[184] Letter from Police Records Supervising Clerk Angelica Gonzales, San Marino Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, August 26, clarified by telephone interview with Ms. Gonzales, December 29, 2008.

[185] Letter from City Clerk Lynne E. Fryman, City of Claremont, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, August 29, 2008; confirmed by e-mail from Captain Stan Van Horn, Claremont Police Department, to Human Rights Watch, January 13, 2009.

[186] Rape kit information: site visit to Alhambra Police Department, January 28, 2008; manual review of evidence logs and property sheets from January 1, 2002, through January 31, 2007; and automated record search from February 1, 2007, through May 31, 2008; rape and arrest information: letter from Records Manager Alexandria Shamlian, Alhambra Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, August 14, 2008.

[187] Letter from Stephen P. Deitsch, Arcadia city attorney, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, August 28, 2008.

[188] One kit was "released to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department in regards to a courtesy report." Ibid.

[189] Letter from Records Supervisor Vivian Olivas, Baldwin Park Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, August 12, clarified by telephone interview with Ms. Olivas, December 17, 2008.

[190] Letter from Richard Lam, attorney for the Bell Gardens Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, September 10, 2008.

[191] Letter from Geoff Ward, Beverly Hills assistant city attorney, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, December 30, 2008. Rape kit information derived from our interpretation of a freezer evidence chart provided by the Beverly Hills Police Department in the letter. Follow-up phone calls to clarify rape kit data were not returned.

[192] Letter from Records Supervisor Kandi Tidwell, Glendora Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, December 11, 2008.

[193] Rape kit information: letter from Property Officer Holly Peck, Hawthorne Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, January 14, clarified in a telephone interview with Property Officer Denise Murphy, February 24, 2009; rape and arrest information: letter from Police Records Supervisor Connie Cooper, Hawthorne Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, January 27, 2009.

[194] Letter from Information Management Specialist Deborah J. Barker, Huntington Park Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, August 14, 2008.

[195] Letters from Kenneth Campos, Inglewood senior assistant city attorney, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, September 16, 2008, and January 28, 2009.

[196] The data provided by the Inglewood Police Department for "rape kits sent to the crime lab" is an estimate.

[197] Rape kit information: e-mail from Gary Anderson, Long Beach deputy city attorney, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, February 24, clarified by Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Lieutenant Alex Avila, Long Beach Police Department, February 24, 2009; rape and arrest information: letter from Belinda R. Mayes, Long Beach principal deputy city attorney, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, August 21, 2008.

[198] Letter from Police Services Supervisor Bonnie Flores, Monrovia Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, August 26, 2008, clarified by telephone interview with Ms. Flores, January 7, 2009.

[199] Letter from David King, Pomona deputy city attorney, Alvarez-Glassman & Colvin, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, August 28, clarified by telephone interview with Police Records Manager Judy Ramsey, Pomona Police Department, December 29, 2008.

[200] Letter from Lieutenant Robert Jacobs, San Fernando Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, August 18, clarified by telephone interview with Property Officer Maria Quinonez, San Fernando Police Department, December 24, 2008.

[201] Letter from Records Supervisor Marie Sy, San Gabriel Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, August 18, 2008.

[202] Letter from Whittier Police Department and Santa Fe Springs Police Services Custodian of Records Gloria Chavez to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, January 13, 2009.

[203] Letter from Community Liaison Eugenia Jimenez, Santa Monica city attorney, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, September 4, 2008.

[204] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Lieutenant Daniel Salerno, Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD), Los Angeles, CA, January 27, 2009. The SMPD was unable to determine how many of the stored kits have been tested. To find this information would require a hand search of all 485 case reports. The SMPD reported that other rape kit information would be too burdensome to produce.

[205] Letter from Griselda Contreras, legal secretary of the El Monte City Attorney's Office, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, December 15, clarified by telephone interview with Vera Latrell, December 17, 2008.

[206] Letter from Records Manager Jackie Bernal, Redondo Beach Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, August 28, 2008.

[207] Letter from Records Administrator Christy Witherspoon, Torrance Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, August 27, 2008.

[208] Letter from Records Supervisor Donna Aggers, West Covina Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, August 18, 2008, clarified by telephone interview with Ms. Aggers, January 5, 2009.

[209] Letter from Captain Max Phipps, El Segundo Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, August 12, 2008.

[210] Rape kit information: Letter from William J. Priest, Covina assistant city attorney, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, January 5, 2009; rape information: "Offenses Known to Law Enforcement, by State by City," Crime in the United States, FBI, Uniform Crime Reports, prepared by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data, http://bjsdata.ojp.usdoj.gov/dataonline (accessed March 16, 2009).

[211] Letter from Records Supervisor and Custodian of Records Ruth Mahlow, La Verne Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, December 17, confirmed by telephone interview with Ms. Mahlow, December 17, 2008.

[212] Letter from James R. Touchstone, Azusa city attorney, Best Best & Krieger LLP, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, September 22, 2008.

[213] Letter from Custodian of Records Gloria Chavez, Whittier Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, August 21, clarified by telephone interview with Ms. Chavez, December 29, 2008.

[214] Letters from William J. Priest, Downy assistant city attorney, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, August 29, 2008, and January 30, 2009.

[215] Rape kit information: letter from Glendale Police Department General Counsel Carmen O. Merino to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, August 28, 2008, clarified by telephone interview, January 27, 2009; rape information: "Offenses Known to Law Enforcement, by State by City," Crime in the United States, FBI, Uniform Crime Reports, prepared by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data, http://bjsdata.ojp.usdoj.gov/dataonline (accessed March 16, 2009).

[216] Facsimile from Senior Records Clerk June Montero, Maywood/Cudahy Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, February 26, clarified by telephone interview with Ms. Montero, February 26, 2009. Maywood and Cudahy are two cities that share a single police department.

[217] Rape kit information: letter from David King, Montebello deputy city attorney, Alvarez-Glassman & Colvin, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, January 16, 2009; rape and arrest information: letter from Records Supervisor Dia Cisneros, Montebello Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, August 20, 2008.

[218] Rape kit information: Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Property Clerk Gloria Munoz, Signal Hill Police Department, regarding public records request, February 2, 2009; rape information: "Offenses Known to Law Enforcement, by State by City," Crime in the United States, FBI, Uniform Crime Reports, prepared by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data, http://bjsdata.ojp.usdoj.gov/dataonline (accessed March 16, 2009).

[219] Letters from Custodian of Records Esbeyda Pimental, Bell Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, August 13, 2008, and January 22, 2009, the latter stating "the Bell police Department has provided all relevant documents in the August 13, 2008 response and no other documents exist. Also, the law does not require the Bell Police Department to create records to satisfy the request. There are simply no additional records in existence containing the information you seek that have not already been provided."

[220] Letter from Robert Barnes, Irwindale Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, August 11, confirmed by telephone interview with Mr. Barnes, December 18, 2008.

[221] E-mail from Adrian Guerra, Monterey Park assistant city attorney, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, September 5, 2008.

[222] E-mails from Lusine Arutyunyan to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, December 30, 2008, and January 21, 2009; e-mail from Juli Scott, Burbank city attorney, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, February 26, 2009. Request is being processed and information will be forthcoming. Rape information: "Offenses Known to Law Enforcement, by State by City," Crime in the United States, FBI, Uniform Crime Reports, prepared by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data, http://bjsdata.ojp.usdoj.gov/dataonline (accessed March 16, 2009).

[223] Letter from Document Section Manager Lt. Chris Maddox, Culver City Police Department, to Human Rights Watch regarding public records request, October 3, 2008. Response letter included a chart of rape reports and arrests, but chart is indecipherable. Multiple telephone interview requests were made to clarify, and as of February 26, 2009, we are still awaiting a response. Rape information: "Offenses Known to Law Enforcement, by State by City," Crime in the United States, FBI, Uniform Crime Reports, prepared by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data, http://bjsdata.ojp.usdoj.gov/dataonline (accessed March 16, 2009).

[224] Human Rights Watch interview with Captain David Walters, Los Angeles, CA, October 29, 2008.

[225] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Sheriff's Department crime lab official, name withheld, Los Angeles, CA, May 6, 2008.

[226] Human Rights Watch e-mail correspondence with Captain David Walters, March 1, 2009.

[227] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Sheriff Department crime lab official, name withheld, Los Angeles, CA, January 26, 2009.

[228] Human Rights Watch interview with Controller Laura Chick, October 30, 2008.

[229] Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors hearing transcript, October 7, 2008, p. 98.

[230]Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors hearing transcript, November 12, 2008, p. 88.

[231] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with mother of a rape victim, name withheld, Los Angeles, CA, October 13, 2008.

[232] Human Rights Watch interview with Gail Abarbanel, March 1, 2009.

[233] Human Rights Watch interview with sexual assault nurse examiner, name withheld, Los Angeles, CA, May 7, 2008.

[234] Ibid.

[235] Human Rights Watch interview with Los Angeles area police officer, name withheld, Los Angeles, CA, July 13, 2008.

[236] Human Rights Watch interview with Los Angeles area sexual assault nurse examiner, name withheld, Los Angeles, CA, January 14, 2009.

[237] Human Rights Watch interview with Los Angeles area police officer, name withheld, Los Angeles, CA, November 12, 2008.

[238] Human Rights Watch interview with Los Angeles area rape treatment provider, name withheld, Los Angeles, CA, December 22, 2008.

[239] Information in this text box from Human Rights Watch interviews with Marie Samples, assistant director, New York Office of the Medical Examiner DNA Unit, New York, NY, March 14, 2008; and with Lisa Friel, assistant district attorney, Special Victims' Unit, Manhattan District Attorney's Office and Martha Bashford, assistant district attorney, Cold Case Sex Crimes Unit, Manhattan District Attorney's Office, New York, NY, March 18, 2008.

[240] Human Rights Watch interview with Martha Bashford, New York, NY, March 18, 2008.

[241] Human Rights Watch interview with district attorney in sex crimes unit, name withheld, New York, NY, December 22, 2008.