According to a Houston Chronicle story, a memo by HPD Charles McClelland indicates that the Houston Police Department’s backlog of untested rape kits totals between 6,000 and 7,000 – 50 percent more than what officials previously acknowledged. The backlog is likely to grow as HPD receives over 900 rape kits a year and has the capability to test only between 360-480 rape kits a year.
The screening of rape kits is used to determine whether there is enough biological evidence for a sexual assault kit to be used for DNA testing. DNA testing at HPD’s crime lab was temporarily suspended in 2002, after an independent audit revealed shoddy forensic work, including unqualified personnel, lax protocols and facilities that included a roof that leaked rainwater onto evidence. Cutting down the rape kit backlog has been a challenge because of a lack of resources and personnel.
Whether there is a resource or personnel issue it is important in order to achieve justice, that the test the kits are completed and they are done so properly. Tainted or untested evidence can lead to wrongful convictions. It is one thing to keep our streets safe, it is another to railroad an innocent person.