Morning Report: SDPD Has State's Worst Rape Kit Backlog

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Morning Report: SDPD Has State's Worst Rape Kit Backlog

The San Diego Police Department / Photo by Megan Wood

A new state audit reveals the San Diego Police Department has more untested rape kits than any other law enforcement agency in the state, and it doesn’t know when those kits were collected.

Only 20 percent of law enforcement agencies in the state responded to an audit that was intended to figure out how large the state’s backlog of untested rape kits is, and why departments decided not to test the kits in the first place.

Rape kits are collections of forensic evidence from survivors of sexual assault, including swabs from different parts of the victim’s body, along with other evidence like hair and underwear that might include the perpetrator’s DNA. Pushing for screening of untested kits has become a national movement, and advocates argue that it can help identify serial predators by checking profiles found in individual cases against federal DNA databases.

SDPD reported 1,627 untested kits in its possession, by far the most of any agency in the audit. The next closest was Oakland, with 1,197, while the Los Angeles Police Department reported just 489 untested kits.

The audit also asked agencies when the kits had been collected, since a law that went into effect last year requires them to test all new kits they collect and all kits still in their possession collected since the start of 2016. While 75 percent of all untested kits in the state were collected before that deadline, SDPD couldn’t provide that information. It didn’t say when any of its kits were collected, accounting for the vast majority of all kits statewide with an unclear collection date.

SDPD had for years argued against testing its untested kits, even as city, state and federal officials adopted policies urging or requiring universal testing. Last year, Voice of San Diego reported that SDPD crime lab leaders pushed analysts to test certain kits less rigorously, and to handle DNA found in the kits differently, than they did with typical investigations. Following the reporting, SDPD installed a sworn officer in charge of the lab, and the lab’s previous director left the department.

Phase 2+ Granted: Restaurants and Stores Can Open

The state department of health gave San Diego County the go ahead Wednesday to allow restaurants to open for dine-in service. You can also walk into stores.

Businesses must fill out this form and pass it out to employees.

County Supervisor Jim Desmond was pumped.

“We have come this far responsibly–let’s work together to ensure we continue our forward momentum,” wrote County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. The supervisors had voted unanimously to take this step. But Fletcher was the only no vote on the request to move straight to Phase 3, which would allow for gyms, nail and hair salons and other higher-risk workplaces.

Local restaurant owners weigh concerns: Several business owners sent us videos last month to share how they were adapting to new guidelines meant to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. We checked in with two of them following the county’s update Tuesday that in-person dining could potentially resume in the coming days.

Joe Bettles of Kono’s Cafe in Pacific Beach said his family has been discussing plans to reopen. He said they should be able to reopen fairly easily with outdoor seating, but added “we of course are concerned with the safety of our staff and could keep our indoor seating closed off for a while.”

Amy and Joe Kraft, owners of Atypical Waffle in North Park, say they’re currently doing about 50 percent of the business that they were doing before the shutdown with online orders and aren’t in a rush to reopen if that means keeping their employees safe.

“It’s tricky. We lean towards taking it slow. We still have our waffles for takeout and we still have all that, but we run with a pretty small staff and we don’t really want to put them at risk either … statistics say something like 22 percent of people are ready to go out and eat.”

North County Districts Face Pressure to Reopen Schools

An exchange between the superintendent of a North County school district and a North County mayor highlights the fine line schools must walk between balancing families’ needs with public safety directives.

In an email to parents and staff last week, Cardiff School District Superintendent Jill Vinson suggested students will attend school for part of the week while continuing distance learning for the rest when classes resume in the fall. The idea follows a hybrid-learning model proposed by the County Office of Education to reduce student capacity in classrooms and meet social distancing and health guidelines.

In response, Blakespear, who has two children in Cardiff schools, said schools “need to do better than propose that kids stay home several days a week next year to do ‘distance learning.’” She told VOSD’s Kayla Jimenez that hybrid learning is a “lose-lose” situation and that students need to be in the classroom.

The COVID Slide Is Not a Cool Dance But a Scary Education Reality

We spoke last week with Laura Kohn, a local education expert and director at the San Diego Workforce Partnership, about the future of schools and childcare in San Diego County. She said what’s happening right now is a massive “COVID slide,” similar to what educators have coined “the summer slide” when student progress recedes during summer months.

Among several changes to reopen campuses, Kohn said “it will only work if we stretch out the day.”

“There’s no way to do social distancing on our campuses unless you have kids in shifts,” she said. “That’s the only possibility.”

The conversation originally appeared in our livestream series Voice of San Diego at Home, but you can now also catch it in your podcast feeds.

  • Scott Lewis had a fascinating conversation Tuesday with UC San Diego Epidemiologist Dr. Rebecca Fielding-Miller about how to evaluate risks as we go on with life and the virus. You can watch that interview here

In Other News

  • San Diego sent an ambulance strike team to Imperial County after hospitals there stopped taking COVID-19 patients delivered by ambulance, citing a surge in patients from across the border in Mexicali. The hospitals on Wednesday resumed taking patients. (Union-Tribune, inewsource)
  • State Senate leader Toni Atkins unveiled a package of five bills Wednesday, including two written by her, intended to boost housing production after SB 50, a controversial bill to boost density near transit, died for the second year in a row. (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • An Oceanside church is defying stay-at-home orders. (NBC San Diego)

The Morning Report was written by Megan Wood and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby.

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