On the heels of a heated conversation with the Salt Lake City Council on Tuesday, Police Chief Chris Burbank maintains the department’s backlog of unprocessed rape kits is not an issue of cost or bureaucracy—but necessity. Today he announced steps to make the process more transparent.
At Tuesday nights’ meeting council members grilled Salt Lake City Police Chief Burbank about the 625 rape kits shelved in the department. Burbank defended the department saying while the tests are expensive, if a detective believes DNA evidence will help solve a case, the evidence will be processed regardless of the cost.
“The fact that I am asked about a process within the police department by the city council, the public or anyone else, absolutely I’m responsible for answering that and will happily do so," Burbank says. What is inappropriate is when you make an accusation that the detectives who work very hard on these cases and put their heart and soul into them are not doing the job that they should,"
Burbank says in the name of transparency, SLCPD will now provide public access to sexual assault cases online, with fictitious case numbers and retracted names. The public can view a synopsis of the case, find out if the rape kit related to the case was processed, and whether it has been screened by prosecutors.
Salt Lake City Councilman Kyle LaMalfa says that’s a step in the right direction, but has not ruled out proposing an ordinance to require all kits be tested.
“Other cities who’ve sent in their entire backlog have realized new convictions that they otherwise wouldn’t have had," LaMalfa says. "I’m strongly encouraged by the chief’s commitment to revisit every case and visiting every case gives every victim a new chance at justice.”
Burbank joined Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill and Utah Public Safety Commissioner Keith Squires who oversees the state crime lab to announce the program.