Rape Kit Update Press Conference

Congressman Honda and Alameda County DA O'Malley Outline Success in Eliminating Rape Kit Backlog ~ Results seen at federal, local level ~

Oakland, CA. – Today, Congressman Mike Honda (D-San Jose) and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley discussed the accomplishments and ongoing efforts to eliminate the backlog of rape kits at a local and national level and to ensure that resources exist to prevent future backlogs.

"It is vitally important that the issue of the backlog of rape kits be addressed at a local and national level. To accomplish this goal, we are bringing tomorrow’s technology for today’s solutions," states District Attorney O'Malley. "Congressman Honda's work to secure federal funding for this work is critical to eliminate backlogged kits in counties throughout the nation and to ensure future timely testing of all kits in Alameda County, statewide and nationwide."

“As a proud supporter of the Violence Against Women Act, it devastates me to hear that there are an estimated 500,000 untested rape kits collecting dust in the evidence rooms of law enforcement and crime labs,” Congressman Honda said. “Violent crimes, such as sexual assault, result in emotional and physical trauma that can last over a lifetime. Reducing the backlog is about saving people from indescribable pain and ensuring those who violate others are brought to justice.”

In Alameda County, the work is proving successful. Alameda County District Attorney O’Malley partnered with local law enforcement to systematically audit all property rooms for untested rape kits. This research revealed in excess of 1,900 untested rape kits in Alameda County. After methodically examining each of the kits, an initial batch was sent for testing. Over the past six months, some were tested by BODE Labs, a private, government certified lab in Virginia and others by the Oakland Police Department’s crime lab. Of those, 55% contained sufficient DNA sample to develop a profile to upload to CODIS. To date, 62% of the profiles uploaded to CODIS have come back with a “hit,” meaning that the profile matches that of a known offender whose DNA was already contained in the nation-wide date-base.

Congressman Honda has worked with DA O’Malley, Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee (CJS) Chairman Frank Wolf, and Rep. Eric Swalwell to encourage the FBI to review its policies about allowing Rapid DNA and private labs to assist with testing samples from suspects. This would reduce the testing burden facing crime labs and allow them to address the rape kit backlog.

Congressman Honda has worked to eliminate the rape kit backlogs by:
• Including language, and $42 million in dedicated funds, in the FY 2015 CJS bill and report to address the sexual assault kit backlog nationwide.
• Working with his Bay Area colleagues to ask the FBI to adjust its policies and requirements to allow for better use of private sector laboratories in DNA testing and analysis. The letter can be seen here: http://bit.ly/1ukSpN5
• Being a consistent supporter of the Debbie Smith Act, which has helped to address the backlog of untested DNA samples in public laboratories.
• Asking FBI Director Comey, at Appropriations Commerce Justice and Science Subcommittee Hearing, about the backlog of DNA Rape Kits here. Video of those questions and answers can be seen here: http://bit.ly/1oYOzWq

In addition to championing the testing of the current backlog of kits, D.A. O’Malley is working on many fronts to eliminate current and future backlogs:
• AB 1517: DA O’Malley and Assemblymember Nancy Skinner introduced legislation to provide for timely testing of kits throughout California.
• Federal Funding: DA O’Malley has met with federal lawmakers and the Vice President’s Office to secure national funding. $41 million has been allocated in the 2015 federal budget specifically for the testing of rape kits.
• FBI Pilot Project: DA O’Malley is in talks with the FBI to allow Alameda County to become the first Pilot Project that would streamline the technical review process after the testing of the kit by a private lab.

Contact: ADA Teresa Drenick
(510) 272-6280
Alameda County District Attorney’s Office

Posted on Sep 29, 2014