SAN FRANCISCO—Citing a “maxed out” crime lab in a state of disarray, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr has rejected an offer by the District Attorney’s office to apply for grants that will fund the testing of old rape kits.
Prosecutors in District Attorney George Gascón’s office wanted to submit applications for two such grants this spring, funds that would help identify hundreds of rapists who were active before 2003.
Victims who immediately report they have been sexually assaulted are asked to submit to a forensic exam lasting between four and six hours. During the exam, the victim’s blood, urine, fingernail clippings, hair, as well as swabs from the mouth, genitals, and anus.
The bodily evidence, as well as the victim’s clothing, are kept as evidence; evidence that is essentially worthless unless it is run through extensive and expensive DNA testing.
Though the old kits cannot lead to any rape convictions because of the State of California’s 10-year statute of limitations, women’s advocates groups and the District Attorney believe the testing might help bring closure to past victims as well as help prosecute serial offenders in future court cases.
In 2014, the San Francisco Police Department successfully cleared a backlog of test kits that dated back to 2003. An unknown number of kits remain in the lab that predate 2003 and remain untested.
Though lab officials estimate that the number of untested kits is in the hundreds, the evidence is currently disorganized and scattered.
San Francisco is not alone in its backlog of rape cases, an issue that the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary specifically discussed in a meeting in May.
For his part, Suhr has stated that he would oblige the proposed grants once the organizational issues within the crime lab had been resolved, but there is no guarantee that the grants will be offered again.
“We have to determine how many there are,” said Suhr. “Then we have to figure out how many of those have actually been tested, because there is no clear record,” Suhr added. “Some of the files may be so old that scientifically they are not capable of being tested.”