Los Angeles: Los Angeles Police Department Chief William Bratton spoke to the media Monday evening at a news conference held in Los Angeles to respond to several issues that have received recent media attention, including: the Department’s handling of backlogged DNA cases, latent finger print issues, racial profiling and the death of Kazuyoshi Miura in the Parker Center Jail.
On October 20, 2008, at about 5:30 p.m., Bratton spoke to the media just prior to a previously scheduled Community Police Commission Meeting at the Rampart Division. During the news conference, Bratton acknowledged Los Angeles City Controller Laura Chick’s just released audit on the Department’s backlog of more than 7000 sexual assault kits. Each kit contains evidence in various forms, including DNA and other biological elements. Chick called for a three-year plan to reduce the backlog and to take measures that will ensure that the Department’s ability to keep pace with this type of evidence collection.
Bratton thanked Chick for helping to make this issue a top priority for City leaders. The problem has been that the accumulation of the DNA kits has accelerated to a point where police personnel cannot keep pace with analyzing them, a nationwide problem that many law enforcement organizations are struggling to handle. To address the problem, LAPD has initiated a two-prong plan.
Firstly, the Department has proposed a three-phase plan to hire new DNA analysts and equipment to keep pace with the incoming evidence and prevent further backlog. Phase 1 has already been completed and includes the expansion of DNA analytic capacity through the hiring of new criminalists and lab technicians who are housed in a new state-of-the-art facility. Phase 2, currently unfunded, is slated to add 16 new criminalists and lab technicians, and Phase 3, also unfunded, would add 17 more.
Secondly, LAPD would establish contracts with accredited labs across the country to reduce the backlog to zero by 2013 at an annual cost of $2.1 million.
There is also a current effort to raise money through private donations in order to get the backlogged kits tested.
The challenge of analyzing DNA kits in a timely manner is not a recent issue and goes back to at least 2002 when the importance of DNA testing became apparent and the backlog of testing began to accumulate. At that time, the Department requested $4.1 million to address the increasing workload, but the request was denied. Since then, multiple requests have been denied, exacerbating the problem and causing the backlog.
The Department acknowledges the undeniable value of DNA testing, the importance of every case and the potential for DNA evidence, even on seemingly minor cases, to lead to additional evidence and the unlocking of many other cases.
Since 2004, the LAPD has received nearly $4 million in federal grant funds. Unfortunately, mistakes have been made, including an administrative error that caused $500,000 earmarked for DNA analysis to be reallocated to another jurisdiction.
Bratton acknowledged that recent personnel actions have been taken as a result of human errors resulting in erroneous fingerprint identifications. He emphasized that the overwhelming number of cases, handled by nearly 100 employees in the Department’s fingerprint unit, regularly meets the high standards of its prosecutorial partners.
In addition, a taskforce has been established to address all of the latent print issues. It will be headed by Deputy Chief Charlie Beck, LAPD Detective Bureau Commanding Officer. The co-chair of the taskforce will be Police Administrator Gerald Chaleff of the Consent Decree Bureau. The LAPD Inspector General and representatives from the district attorney’s office will round out the taskforce.
Bratton has also consulted with his counterparts at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) regarding a partnership to establish a “best practices” model for fingerprint identifications. To help facilitate this process, FBI Executive Assistant Director of Science and Technology Lou Grever will be working with the Department to establish audits and initiate protocols for random testing, which will incorporate new management systems to help ensure excellence.
Moving this plan forward, effective Nov. 9, 2008, Bratton will relocate the Department’s Scientific Identification Division operations to its Detective Bureau, under the command of Deputy Chief Charlie Beck. This reorganization will provide for a more synergistic relationship between analysts and detectives as it relates to the processing of evidence.
Report on Racial Bias
Bratton addressed a report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that accused the LAPD of racial profiling. Bratton reiterated the point that because police officers are human beings they may come to the Department with certain biases. However, as in the past, the Department will continue to focus on its commitment to prevent racial profiling and eradicate it when it surfaces.
Serious consideration is given to the issue of racial bias during recruitment, selection, training, and the continuing education of officers. Bratton also noted that much of the criteria used for the ACLU’s findings were faulty for the purpose of establishing whether or not racial profiling has occurred. For example, the use of census data is inappropriate in a highly mobile city like Los Angeles, where people often don’t live and work in the same area and are constantly on the move by numerous means of transportation. Similarly, in studies conducted during ride-alongs with officers on patrol, findings showed that 21 percent of the time during daylight hours and 32 percent during hours of darkness, it was not possible to determine the race or ethnicity of people driving. Additionally, using the officer’s race compared to the race of the person the officer detains is equally inappropriate. This theory presupposes that there is only one officer making the determination. However, in the vast majority of these situations, two officers are involved in the decision.
Death of Murder Suspect Kazuyoshi Miura
Bratton acknowledged an allegation in regards to the death of extradited murder suspect Kazuyoshi Miura being a homicide. Bratton stated that based on the evidence, Miura’s death was a suicide. He went on to remind everyone that “the Los Angeles County Coroner has not yet released the scientific findings; but based on what we know to be true, we have every reason to believe that it could only have been a suicide.”
The Chief, along with the men and woman of the LAPD, are committed to providing the highest level of service to the citizens of Los Angeles and will constantly strive to uphold the highest ideals of the Los Angeles Police Department.
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