Last summer, the Los Angeles Police Department expected nearly $1 million in federal grant money to help cover the cost of analyzing DNA evidence in rape cases and other violent crimes, but got only half that much. The U.S. Department of Justice said it was Los Angeles’ fault. The city had been too slow to spend about half the DNA grant money awarded in prior years, so its 2008 allotment was reduced. An audit found that more than 7,000 rape kits are waiting to be analyzed, the largest known backlog in the country.
The Justice Department cut backlog funding this year to crime labs in 17 states, including California, because they had not spent federal grants dating as far back as 2004. The cuts coincide with a soaring national DNA backlog. Although the federal government hasn’t estimated the backlog in recent years, Human Rights Watch, which advocates for rape victims among others, has put it at about 400,000 cases. Los Angeles assistant police chief Sharon Papa acknowledged that, on paper, the department had nearly $2 million in unspent federal DNA funds as of August. She said those figures did not account for about $500,000 of DNA work sent to private labs but not yet reflected on balance sheets. The spending delay was largely the result of confusion about the time frames the Justice Department sets for spending the money, Papa and others said.