SF police pledge to clear 400-plus rape kits from before 2003

All of San Francisco’s untested rape kits have been counted and will be tested, said Police Chief Greg Suhr.

The announcement comes after it was revealed last week that the Police Department refused to go after millions of dollars in possible grant funds, along with the District Attorney's' Office, that would have paid for the testing.

But now, after saying that his crime lab could not handle the extra work the grant money would have given them, Suhr told The San Francisco Examiner on Wednesday that his crime lab will test the old kits, all of which were recently hand counted. He said funds for the testing were found in last year’s budget, but he did not say how much the testing will cost or when it will be complete.

“I’m glad to see that there is a plan in place to complete this last set of kits,” said Police Commission President Suzy Loftus. “San Francisco will be one of the few cities in America to have truly cleared out an entire backlog.”

The Examiner reported last week that the Police Department had refused to take part in a pair of $2 million grants District Attorney George Gascon was applying for to test all rape kits from before 2003. Police participation was required because the department's crime lab handles rape kits.

A rape kit contains the results of various tests performed on victims after the incident. DNA evidence can be obtained through the tests, and it can be used against defendants in prosecutions. However, most cases of rape have a statute of limitations of 10 years in California. Evidence collected in older cases can be entered into a national database that is used by prosecutors to show possible patterns of sexual assault in newer cases.

Either grant would have provided $2 million, most of which would have gone to the Police Department for testing rape kits that fall outside of the statute of limitations. As part of the grants, the department would have received a discount in the testing costs.

“It’s great that the Police Department has changed its tune and that this important work is going to be done,” said Max Szabo, a spokesman for the District Attorney's Office. “Every victim of sexual assault deserves to have their kit tested.”

In December, the Police Department announced that all 753 rape kit cases that fall within the statute of limitations, which were identified as part of a 10-year-old backlog, had been sent for testing. That left all older kits untested.

In the recent hand count, police identified 437 kits that are older than 10 years and will be sent for testing, Suhr said.

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