City Council Questions Backlog of Untested Rape Evidence

Apr 15, 2014

The Salt Lake City Police Department has hundreds of unprocessed rape kits collecting dust on a shelf. Now the Salt Lake City council is looking into how to best manage the backlog of evidence.

Data from the Salt Lake City Police Department show 625 kits that contain physical evidence of a sexual assault are still in custody and have not been sent to the state lab for DNA testing.

Police Chief Chris Burbank told the Salt Lake City Council on Tuesday, there are a number of reasons why kits are not tested. He says victims may be uncooperative for instance, or the suspect may be an acquaintance, which he says is usually the case. 

“If it’s a husband who rapes their wife, there is no question in our mind who that suspect is and why would we spend $1000 or bog down the state lab processing a kit that will never play into the prosecution of this individual,” Burbank says.

Burbank says DNA tests are expensive and the state can take up to six months to process just one test.

He says those cases are prioritized based on a detectives’ assertion that the evidence will actually help solve a case. 

“My opinion is, now my detectives, if there was a kit that needed to be tested, they would test it,” Burbank says.

But Holly Mullen, Executive Director of the Rape Recovery Center says many more RAPE KITS can and should be processed, especially in instances where the victim is deemed uncooperative.

“We can turn in as many kits as possible and try to get on these before someone feels they have the freedom and the liberty and the desire to just go out and keep assaulting victims,” Mullen says.

Salt Lake City Councilman Kyle LaMalfa says he’d like to pass an ordinance requiring all rape kits to be processed in a specific amount of time.

Chief Burbank says he’s looking into a partnership with a private company that he says could perform the department’s DNA tests faster than the state, at a lower cost.