Hamilton Co. Crime Lab Stops Testing CPD Rape Kits

Jul 19, 2017

The Hamilton County Coroner's office, which houses the county crime lab, will no longer process rape kits from the Cincinnati's police department, according to Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black.

Black says in a memo Wednesday the city has relied on the county crime lab to test the kits for years. They will now be sent to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation in London, Ohio.

"Significant delays are expected as a result of this sudden and unexpected disruption," Black writes in the memo.

Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco notified Police Chief Eliot Isaac about the change in a July 6 letter.  

"The backlog of cases within our DNA section continues to grow, and as such we have been forced to look for ways to triage the cases that are submitted to the laboratory," Sammarco wrote. "Internal discussions indicate that discontinuing the examination of rape cases would result in a sizeable reduction in our workload."

Sammarco calls the moratorium "temporary" and says it will be re-examined at the end of the year. The Hamilton County crime lab is still testing rape kits for other county police agencies and for city rape cases involving drugs.

The office returned 74 unopened rape kits from the Cincinnati Police Department collected in April, May and June.

Sammarco says she believes those kits can be analyzed faster at the state crime lab. She says it would take the local lab until the end of the year to have results. Sammarco says the state lab currently doesn't have a backlog and should have results by the end of August.

The police chief says in a memo to the city manager that the state lab is requesting the police department only deliver 15 kits per week. He says the Bureau's examinations take approximately two weeks.

The coroner is also suggesting a meeting with police about DNA testing conducted at the county crime lab.

"I have engaged your command staff in discussion to review the DNA process and how together we can reduce the number of items that your personnel might need to collect at the scene and subsequently submit to the laboratory," Sammarco writes in her letter to the police chief.

As of June 26, the crime lab had a backlog of 566 cases, Sammarco says, and each case may have multiple items to be tested for DNA.

The crime lab currently has three full-time DNA analysts, one being trained, and an open position in the process of being filled.

Sammaco says the DNA backlog should be eliminated when the crime lab moves to a new facility in Blue Ash. That project is in the planning and design stages. It should allow for more space, allowing analysts to work on multiple cases at the same time. That's not possible at the current crime lab.