By Melissa Caen

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – There is a move toward justice for rape victims, with a plan to reduce the number of un-tested evidence kits.

There are thousands of untested rape kits in California, but we don’t know the exact number, where they are, or why they’re not being tested.

A proposed law, AB 41, would require local jurisdictions to report that data.

But the California State Sheriffs’ Association is against the bill.

Marin County Sheriff Bob Doyle recommended that the association fight the law.

So, why is an influential Bay Area sheriff saying a reporting requirement for untested rape kits is a bad idea?

“At the end of the day [AB] 41 doesn’t do anything to help us investigate, bring people to justice or prosecution. It’s a reporting system,” Doyle said.

For Sheriff Doyle, it is not a matter of time or money to create the reports.

We asked him, if it’s easy and some of his constituents would like to understand this information, what is the problem?

Doyle said, “We’re not in the habit of just supporting bills that really aren’t necessary.”

Supporters of AB 41 say the data will allow the state to know the extent of untested kits so the state can provide more resources where they’re needed.

It would also allow sexual assault victims to track the progress of their kit. But sheriff Doyle disagrees that either of those things is necessary.

So, we asked Doyle if there are any statewide reports on testing or not testing of rape kits that he thinks would be useful?

Doyle said, “Not at this time, no.”

It’s a different story in San Francisco where the police department already submits reports on rape kit testing to the San Francisco Police Commission.

“We’re always looking to improve, looking forward to next reporting,” said SFPD Captain Gregory Mar, who is the commanding officer of the Forensic Service Division.

The reports they create are actually more detailed than the ones required by AB 41.

He says the additional work has been absorbed by current employees.

“We had to shift middle managers to help with that, so it did take time from normal duties,” Mar said.

He says the reports are useful, because police need the help of the community.

Mar said, “It’s necessary data or information that both the commission and the public are entitled to for the sake of transparency and openness.”

We reached out to the sheriffs in all nine Bay Area counties and asked their position on AB 41.

The sheriffs in San Francisco and San Mateo are in favor of AB 41, while sheriffs in Marin and Alameda counties oppose it.

As for the rest?

The sheriffs in Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties are on vacation and we’re told could not be bothered.

And we spent four days trying to get answers from Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties. But all we got were responses like – the sheriff is busy, gone for the day, try again tomorrow.

And, that we will.

Comments (4)
  1. If government oversight wasn’t necessary, we wouldn’t have rape kit backlogs at all. Good article, keep at it.

  2. Because of the cost to process these things, law enforcement agencies have implemented a triage system. While that makes economic sense, and the kit doesn’t “spoil” as long as it’s stored in the fridge, this doesn’t help victims get justice. Why can’t all kits be processed and then cross referenced with nationwide DNA databases? Right, that would be logical and we’re talking about the govt here. Don’t forget this is “sanctuary” California, where gang member databases get deleted and violent, dangerous criminals are released prematurely/allowed to roam and prey on our communities and now they’re talking about changing the sex offender registry so that not all convicted offenders have to register for life. What the heck! Pervs cannot be rehabilitated, that’s basic science.

  3. As a California resident and the brother of a murder victim– my sister Cathy was killed as part of the still unsolved Colonial Parkway Murders– it saddens me see the California Sheriff’s Association coming out against AB 41, the proposed law to track all untested rape kits in the state. Finding out where the backlog exists would allow us to provide resources, get older rape kits tested, test results entered into the nationwide database of offenders, and put rapists behind bars.

    Why would the Sheriff’s Association be opposed to that plan? The only reason I can think of is that some departments might be embarrassed to admit how many untested rape kits they have sitting in their evidence rooms.

    Thank you for covering this important story.

    Bill Thomas
    Brother of Cathy Thomas
    Colonial Parkway Murders
    Los Angeles, CA

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