Effective Aug. 1, Louisiana's criminal justice agencies handling untested sexual assault DNA collection kits must report the number of kits in their possession to the Louisiana State Police (LSP) crime lab. Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed into law a measure from state Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, that sets a hard deadline (Jan. 1, 2015) on getting a firm number on just how many untested sexual assault kits are in law enforcement hands.
It's part of an effort to "end the backlog," a national movement to upload DNA evidence from sexual assaults into the FBI's Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), which links federal, state and local criminal justice agencies. The U.S. Department of Justice found a backlog of more than 1,000 untested rape kits in New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) storage in 2010, but according to NOPD sex crimes detectives, that backlog has been eliminated.
Morrell and the LSP aren't sure whether other parts of the state have been as successful, which prompted Morrell to introduce the measure and find out where the gaps are. (LSP also eliminated its own backlog, entering more than 30,000 DNA samples into the CODIS database beginning in 2008.)
Other states also are tackling the backlog problem this year. In Detroit, legislators are debating a bill that would require law enforcement to collect kits within 14 days of being notified by a hospital, assign it to police and send information to the state's crime lab, where it has to be tested within three months — all while its crime lab begins to tackle its more than 7,000 untested kits.