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California Sheriffs' Association Opposes Bill To Measure Rape Kit Backlog

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – There is a move toward justice for rape victims, with a plan to reduce the number of un-tested evidence kits.

There are thousands of untested rape kits in California, but we don't know the exact number, where they are, or why they're not being tested.

A proposed law, AB 41, would require local jurisdictions to report that data.

But the California State Sheriffs' Association is against the bill.

Marin County Sheriff Bob Doyle recommended that the association fight the law.

So, why is an influential Bay Area sheriff saying a reporting requirement for untested rape kits is a bad idea?

"At the end of the day [AB] 41 doesn't do anything to help us investigate, bring people to justice or prosecution. It's a reporting system," Doyle said.

For Sheriff Doyle, it is not a matter of time or money to create the reports.

We asked him, if it's easy and some of his constituents would like to understand this information, what is the problem?

Doyle said, "We're not in the habit of just supporting bills that really aren't necessary."

Supporters of AB 41 say the data will allow the state to know the extent of untested kits so the state can provide more resources where they're needed.

It would also allow sexual assault victims to track the progress of their kit. But sheriff Doyle disagrees that either of those things is necessary.

So, we asked Doyle if there are any statewide reports on testing or not testing of rape kits that he thinks would be useful?

Doyle said, "Not at this time, no."

It's a different story in San Francisco where the police department already submits reports on rape kit testing to the San Francisco Police Commission.

"We're always looking to improve, looking forward to next reporting," said SFPD Captain Gregory Mar, who is the commanding officer of the Forensic Service Division.

The reports they create are actually more detailed than the ones required by AB 41.

He says the additional work has been absorbed by current employees.

"We had to shift middle managers to help with that, so it did take time from normal duties," Mar said.

He says the reports are useful, because police need the help of the community.

Mar said, "It's necessary data or information that both the commission and the public are entitled to for the sake of transparency and openness."

We reached out to the sheriffs in all nine Bay Area counties and asked their position on AB 41.

The sheriffs in San Francisco and San Mateo are in favor of AB 41, while sheriffs in Marin and Alameda counties oppose it.

As for the rest?

The sheriffs in Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties are on vacation and we're told could not be bothered.

And we spent four days trying to get answers from Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties. But all we got were responses like - the sheriff is busy, gone for the day, try again tomorrow.

And, that we will.

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