It’s more than a month late, but the Honolulu Police Department has finally reported the number of untested sex assault kits to the state attorney general.
Police departments in each county were supposed to give the information to the state by Sept. 1, but only Maui made the deadline.
The number was released as police commissioners grilled HPD on the matter Wednesday.
Back in February, the department said the number of untested kits was 1,512. Since then, HPD says 137 more kits have been tested, which reduces the number of untested kits to 1,375.
So why was HPD late with its report and is it losing out on money that could help? As HPD scrambles to fix the backlog, we’re told it violated state law by not submitting its numbers on time.
Some of the untested kits sitting on HPD’s shelves dated back to the ’90s.
During a meeting Wednesday, police commissioner Loretta Sheehan asked police the tough question: Why weren’t these kits tested?
HPD explained that up until recently, the priority was “prosecution-based” and not testing the kits.
The department says it hired three criminalists this year to fix the backlog, but also wants to outsource some of the work.
Commissioners wanted to know specifics, while state Sen. Laura Thielen, D, Kailua, told the commission that HPD did not take advantage of federal funding available to them.
“The Legislature appropriated money this year, but I want to point out, federal government has made this a priority for many years. There have been federal funds available year after for this. We were told the legislature says HPD had not applied for federal grants,” Thielen said.
Thielen says the Legislature appropriated half-a-million dollars this year to test the kits, and lawmakers will continue to help out, but testing these kits is already part of HPD’s base budget for public safety.
The police commission says it wants a more thorough presentation behind the backlog of sex assault kits, which police will put together.