SFPD Chief: Backlog of older rape kits to be tested

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - In a sudden shift from previous statements, San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr now says the backlog of older rape kits will be tested.

That could lead to arrests in some sexual assault cases.

"We will be able to clear the entire backlog and be one of the only major cities in the country to have done so, by the end of the year," said Suhr.

Last week, Suhr said the crime lab was "too maxed out" to take on the backlog of rape evidence kits that date back from before 2003.

Since then a hand count found 437 kits that haven't been tested.

Why did Suhr make one claim last week and another this week? "It was a question of not knowing what we had and when we would be able to go forward. That became clear," he said.

Suhr also had raised eyebrows when he refused to partner with the district attorney's office and apply for millions of dollars in grants to pay for the testing.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon says that's now water under the bridge.

"It was a week ago he didn't think this was possible. And he did this week. I'm glad he re-thought the process and is stepping up," Gascon said.

The kits will now be processed, with DNA results placed in a criminal data bank that could lead to links to other crimes. In many cases the statute of limitations for many of the rapes has run out.

"Some of them can be prosecuted and others may not be prosecuted but at least we know who they are," said Gascon.

The police chief and the district attorney say clearing out the backlog should bring justice to rapists and to rape victims.