Dozens of police departments throughout Los Angeles County routinely have not tested DNA evidence collected in rape and sexual assault cases, and are unable to account for thousands of pieces of evidence that could potentially help solve crimes, says a new report quoted by the Los Angeles Times. A critic says rape victims “feel betrayed.”
The county’s two large law enforcement agencies — the Los Angeles Police Department and the Sheriff’s Department — have come under harsh criticism for not testing about 10,000 samples of semen, saliva, and other genetic material gathered from victims’ bodies after alleged attacks and for letting legal time limits pass on hundreds of cases. The report, from the independent group Human Rights Watch, found that the other 47 police agencies in the county are struggling with the same problems. Rape victims “have a right to expect police to do all they can to thoroughly investigate their case, but in L.A. [County] they often feel betrayed to learn that their rape kits are never even tested,” said Sarah Tofte, the report’s author. “And in some cases, failure to test means that a rapist who could have been arrested will remain free.” The outlying police departments, which rely on the county’s crime laboratory for DNA testing, were found to have nearly 2,750 rape kits sitting untested in storage freezers — some more than two decades old. The agencies were estimated to have destroyed about 1,500 other kits after determining the evidence was no longer of use. Gail Abarbanel of the Rape Treatment Center at the Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center, expressed dismay at the findings.