Los Angeles City Council Moves to Strengthen Rape Investigations
With the help of the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women , two Los Angeles city council members have proposed a new bill that would create a local version of the federal Debbie Smith Act, which authorizes money to reduce the national backlog of untested DNA rape kits. Council members Jack Weiss and Jan Perry’s proposal to the Los Angeles City Council follows the recent revelation that thousands of untested rape-evidence kits were destroyed by the LAPD. In addition to endorsing the legislation of the Debbie Smith Act, Weiss and Perry’s bill increases local funding for DNA testing so that all rape evidence can be inventoried and tested, regardless of whether or not a suspect has been identified. Current LAPD protocol encourages detectives to only test evidence in cases where a suspect has been identified, leaving “critical evidence locked away in the LAPD’s freezers while rapists are free to assault more women,” said Weiss. Weiss and Perry’s bill will prohibit police from destroying DNA rape kits, and will mandate that all tested evidence be put through the California Cold Hit program, which matches DNA evidence with offender databases. According to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, states that use cold hit programs on DNA rape evidence are finding up to a 48% “hit rate” on other unsolved rape cases.
Media Resources: Los Angeles Times, 09/21/02; Jack Weiss Press Release, 09/20/02; Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, 09/27/02