Sacramento police possess 300+ untested rape kits but didn’t report it to state, audit says

The Sacramento Police Department is in possession of an estimated more than 300 untested rape kits, and has not told California’s Department of Justice — an apparent violation of state law, according to a new city audit.

The Police Department does not know how many untested kits it has in its possession because, according to the audit, it has not counted them. As part of an investigation, the auditor estimated the department likely has about 340 untested kits collected prior to 2016.

Testing previously untested kits can lead to arrests, as it did in January when Sacramento police used DNA to arrest a man linked to at least five prowling incidents. Nationally, testing untested kits has led to at least 1,554 convictions, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Police officials told the auditors that the department lacked staffing to perform the time-intensive testing.

“SPD officials stated that (kit) testing is expensive, and in some instances, the cases connected to the (kit) carried a low probability of investigative or prosecutorial success. In these instances, rather than testing, the decision was made to store the kit to support the investigation if new evidence was discovered,” the report stated.

The department has done a better job of testing kits collected in recent years. All 25 kits collected after 2016 have been tested, the audit found.

Other California cities have hundreds of untested kits collected prior to 2016 as well, prompting a slate of new state laws. Los Angeles had 374, Anaheim had 239 and Santa Ana had 505, the audit stated. But unlike Sacramento, all those departments followed the law by submitting the information to the Attorney General’s Office.

In addition to Sacramento, about 500 other local law enforcement agencies did not submit the information, according to a 2020 report from the Attorney General’s Office. Among them is the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office.

A spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office said the information was due to the A.G.’s Office in 2019 during a previous administration. He declined to comment further on the matter.

The Police Department’s own internal audit is underway, according to a response letter from Deputy Chief Steve Oliveira attached to the city’s audit. Oliveria wrote that the agency’s investigation was expected to be finished by Friday and sent to the state Department of Justice. The department is also working to find grant opportunities to work through the backlog.

The City Council’s Budget and Audit Committee will discuss the audit during Tuesday’s meeting at 3 p.m.