Los Angeles: Chief William Bratton spoke to the media Monday evening at a news conference held in Los Angeles to respond to several recent accusations of the Department’s handling of backlogged DNA cases, latent finger print issues, and racial profiling.
On October 20, 2008, at about 5:30 p.m., Chief Bratton spoke to the media before a previously scheduled Public Police Commission Meeting near downtown. During the news conference Chief Bratton acknowledged Los Angeles City Controller Laura Chick’s, just released audit, in which it was reported that the LAPD has a backlog of more than 7000 sexual assault kits. The report also called for a three year plan to reduce the backlog and to take measures to assure it never grows to that proportion again.
Chief Bratton made clear that he recognized the DNA backlog was a “tremendously important problem.” He assured the public that he has been doing everything in his power to get the funding needed to accomplish the task of testing all of the backlogged kits, knowing that crimes are solved, and prevented, by the outcome of these tests. There is even a current effort to raise money through private donations in order to get the backlogged kits tested.
The problem is that collection of the DNA kits exceeds the ability to analyze them and is a countrywide problem, not just a local one. To address the problem, the LAPD has initiated a two prong plan.
First, hire new DNA analyst and equipment to keep pace with the incoming evidence and prevent further backlog. This will be accomplished in three phases:
Phase 1 – has already been completed and includes the expansion of the capacity of DNA analysis through the hiring of new criminalists and lab technicians, housed in a new facility.
Phase 2 – currently unfunded, is slated to add 16 new criminalists and lab technicians.
Phase 3 – also unfunded, will add 17 more criminalist and lab technicians.
Secondly, contract with accredited labs across the country to reduce the backlog to zero by 2013, at a cost of $2.1 million per year.
The problem is certainly not a new one. It has been a topic reported on as far back as 2002 when the importance of DNA testing was being realized and the backlog began growing. At that time the Department requested $4.1 million to address the increasing work load, but the request was denied. Since then, request after request after request, have been denied, resulting in the large backlog we are now experiencing.
There is no denying the value of DNA testing. Every case is important and worthy of the Department’s best efforts. It is understood that solving even a minor case could potentially unlock many other cases.
Since 2004 the LAPD has received nearly $4 million in federal grant funds. And mistakes have been made. A clerical mistake did result in $500,000 for DNA analysis to be reallocated to another jurisdiction.
As a result of that mistake, subject matter experts will now oversee the two pronged plan described. The pitfalls that have previously befallen the Department will be avoided and it will be possible to maintain compliance with all aspects of the law.
In regards to the Latent Print issues that have arisen, Chief Bratton spoke confidently that systems are in place to correct any mishandling of latent prints up to this point, and to prevent any future mishandling of latent prints, while admitting, “We screwed up.” And while he did admit that mistakes had been made, he wanted to make clear that NO case is prosecuted solely on the basis of fingerprint evidence.
A Task Force to address all of the latent print issues has been established and will be headed by Deputy Chief Charlie Beck, Commanding Officer of Detective Bureau, and Police Administrator Gerald Chaleff of the Consent Decree Bureau, who will co-chair the Task Force. The Inspector General and four personnel from the District Attorney’s office will round out the Task Force.
The FBI has agreed to assist the LAPD with some of the backlog. The Executive Assistant Director of Science and Technology, Lou Grever, will be working with the Department in establishing work audits and putting into place protocols for random testing, incorporating new management systems that will help to ensure excellence.
To help move this plan forward, effective November 9, Chief Bratton has shifted the Scientific Identification Division (SID) operations to 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.
By the year 2010 it is projected that these, and other steps along the way, will guarantee full accreditation from the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors.
And finally, the Chief addressed the report by the ACLU that accused the LAPD of racial profiling. The Chief reiterated the point that police officers are human beings and we cannot assume that they are free from bias. Rather the Department’s focus has been, and will continue to be, on preventing racial profiling from occurring, and eradicating when it is found.
Serious consideration is given to this issue during recruitment, selection, training, and the continuing education of officers. It was also noted that much of the criteria used for the ACLU’s findings are faulty for the purpose of establishing whether or not racial profiling occurs. For example, the use of census data is inappropriate in a highly mobile city, where people do not necessarily live and work in the same area, and people are constantly on the move by any number of means of transportation.
Similarly, in studies conducted during ride-alongs the finding showed that 21% of the time during daylight hours, and 32% during hours of darkness, it was not possible to tell the race or ethnicity of the drivers. Additionally, using the officer’s race compared to the race of the person stopped is equally inappropriate. This theory presupposes that there is only one officer making the determination, and the vast majority of the time, two officers are involved in the decision.
The Chief, along with the men and woman of the Los Angeles Police Department, are committed to providing the highest level of service to the citizens of Los Angeles and will constantly strive to achieve the highest ideals of the Los Angeles Police Department.
For further information, please contact Media Relations Section at 213-485-3586.