SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – California lawmakers may start requiring police departments to track the status of rape evidence kits in an effort to reduce the backlog of untested evidence.
The state Assembly on Thursday unanimously passed a bill that would require police to report information about rape evidence kits that have been collected by investigators but remain untested. AB41 now goes to the state Senate.
Rape kits are used to gather and preserve evidence after victims say they have been sexual assaulted. The kits contain DNA evidence collected during an examination of the victim that can last hours and can be “extremely invasive,” said Assemblyman David Chiu, the bill’s author.
Chiu has said there are more than 6,000 untested rape kits in California but no comprehensive data on how many are collected and why some have not been tested. The San Francisco Democrat says his bill would help decrease untested kits by requiring police to report them.
“I hope that the injustice of the situation is obvious,” he said. “When a rape kit remains untested, it re-traumatizes survivors and allows criminals to roam free.”
Under the bill, police would send information on the kits to the California Department of Justice, which would submit annual reports to lawmakers. The information would help officials determine why there is a backlog and how it can be improved, Chiu said.
The requirements would apply for kits collected starting next year.
Opponents of Chiu’s bill have argued the reporting requirements are too burdensome for police departments.
Police sometimes do not submit the kits for testing when they are not needed to identify the perpetrator or the victim has recanted, said Cory Salzillo, a spokesman for the California State Sheriffs’ Association.
It’s unclear how a new reporting requirement would address the backlog, Salzillo added.
The issue has drawn nationwide attention. There are estimated to be more than 100,000 untested sexual assault evidence kits in the U.S.
Former President Barack Obama signed a bill last year that guarantees survivors in federal criminal cases the right to know the results of their evidence kits and to be notified before the kits are destroyed.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.