Students to Help With DNA Tests on Rape Kit Backlog

The federal government gave Cal State Los Angeles a $1 million grant to help the Los Angeles Police Department and county Sheriff's Department do DNA testing on a backlog of rape kits.

"It is a tragedy of enormous proportions that we could be taking rapists off the street ... and we're not, even though the evidence is sitting there in a lab, unanalyzed," Congressman Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, stated.

Schiff led the effort to get the grant, said Sean Kearns of CSULA. The mission of the "Smart Backlog Reduction Program" is threefold, he said, to "target, outsource, and train."

The "target" component involves funding for CSULA graduate students to provide the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the Los Angeles Police Department with administrative support in tracking down detectives and courts "to target cases that will lead to viable prosecutions," Kearns said.

Under the "outsource" component, up to 250 cases will be outsourced for testing by private vendors.

And under the "train" component, CSULA will provide courses in advanced forensic DNA training. The courses, which allow faculty members to share their state-of-the-art research with working professionals, will augment current training programs for professional criminalists.

The courses will be offered by CSULA's California Forensic Science Institute, which is organized under the university's College of Health and Human Services.

In late June, due to what Sheriff Lee Baca said was a lack of funding, the sheriff's department suspended its effort to whittle down a decades-old backlog of rape kits that at one point numbered about 4,600.

The Los Angeles Police Department, which last year had a backlog of nearly 7,000 unprocessed rape kits, has processed thousands of kits; one arrests has been made. Police officials have said they expected to clear the backlog by next summer.

In the past, many rape kits went untested unless detectives assigned to the case requested it.   

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