City Council to vote on rape kit funding

Sarah Philips

Austin Police Department’s Public Safety Commission released a statement Sept. 6 urging the Austin City Council to provide funds to address the rape kit backlog and the current closure of APD’s DNA lab.

Austin City Council is in the midst of passing their 2016-2017 budget, which now includes funds to be allocated to staff at the APD DNA lab including seven analysts and one supervisor, something that victims of sexual assault and Stop Abuse For Everyone, a sexual assault prevention advocacy group, had pushed for in a public hearing last week. 

In addition to DNA lab staff salaries, the PSC is recommending that the city council also allocate $5.6 million in funds to test all the rape kits currently backlogged. 

The PSC’s recommendation also held requirements for the lab to prevent another backlog mandating all rape kits must be tested within four weeks or they should be outsourced to another lab and necessitates the lab operate without a backlog.

SAFE Alliance CEO Kelly White said APD’s action is a good start to alleviating the problem.

“APD’s commitment is a great first step and our focus now is on the city council taking the steps necessary to ensure APD’s DNA lab is staffed commensurate with the need for timely testing of sexual assault kits and other DNA evidence so we don’t end up with a new backlog,” White said in a statement. “That means that the amendment to the city budget to fully staff the lab, PS1.04, must pass when considered by the council this week.”

Austin City Council has not voted on their budget yet this week, even though they were previously scheduled to do so on Monday. 

Rules dictate that the budget must go through three readings which were scheduled for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before being passed.