- Associated Press - Thursday, May 12, 2016

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - The California Assembly on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a proposal requiring local police departments to report how many rape kits they collect and give a reason for every kit that goes untested in an effort to reduce the accumulation of untested DNA samples taken in sexual assault cases.

Under the proposal from Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, law enforcement agencies would tell the state Department of Justice the number of DNA samples they collect in sexual assault cases. They would be required to give a reason for every kit not sent to a crime lab every four months they are not tested.

The data would become public once a year in a summary from the attorney general.

“In our state, we know there is a significant backlog, but we don’t know how many rape kits have been collected nor do we know how many have been tested or why kits have not been tested,” Chiu said.

On a 72-0 vote, members of the Assembly sent the bill to the Senate.

The California State Sheriffs’ Association opposes the bill and has said providing statistics places a cost burden on law enforcement agencies.

Legislative analysts have projected Chiu’s AB1848 would cost police no money and little time.

The bill stemmed from State Auditor Elaine Howle’s 2014 recommendation that, as no state or federal law requires all kits to be tested or counted, legislators should mandate that police track rape-kit numbers and explain samples that are not analyzed.

Howle’s office found that Oakland police, San Diego police and Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies asked crime labs to analyze a combined 52 percent of the 1,900 rape kits those agencies collected from 2011-2013.

The auditor’s office took a closer look at 45 sexual assault investigations with unanalyzed samples and decided officers had reasonable explanations for not seeking analyses in those cases. The report said a request for a DNA analysis would not have altered the outcome of the investigation.

Chiu argued that, even when a conviction is made without DNA evidence, testing as many samples as possible is crucial to linking perpetrators to other possible victims. He said untested samples could allow true assailants to go free.

Previous bills attempting to decrease the logjam by forcing police to test the kits more quickly died after police testified they do not have enough resources to test everything.

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