The Salt Lake City Council has agreed to move forward with a proposal to require all sexual assault evidence kits in the Salt Lake City Police Department’s custody be tested. The decision comes despite objections from Police Chief Chris Burbank.
The city council made it clear at its Tuesday night work session that it wants more from the Salt Lake City Police Department—more information, more processing of evidence, more transparency and more cooperation.
Members of the council complained the department is unresponsive when it comes to resolving sexual assault cases. The department has more than 600 rape evidence kits in custody that are unprocessed and is expected to amass about 100 more over the next year. Chief Burbank told the council earlier this spring, processing all the kits through the state lab could take years and utilizing a private lab would be too expensive. He also argued not all the kits need to be tested. But Councilman Luke Garrott isn’t satisfied with Burbank’s explanation.
“If justice is too expensive like the police chief has said it’s not doing its job,” Garrott says. “We know that’s constitutionally unsound. You can’t deny justice because it’s too expensive and our issues with our citizenry needing to trust our police couldn’t be more important.”
No one was present Tuesday night to represent the department, although councilmembers acknowledged Chief Chris Burbank is out of town.
Councilman Kyle LaMalfa has a proposal to improve the way sexual assault cases are resolved in the city. It includes testing existing and future kits, looking for an alternative DNA lab to test the kits aside from the state crime lab, and consulting with experts on training for sexual assault cases. The council unanimously agreed to move forward with most of LaMalfa’s wish list. They estimated it would cost about $100,000 to test the new evidence kits that come in over the next year. But Councilwoman Lisa Ramsey Adams wasn’t concerned about the possible price tag.
“$100,000 to give women closure and peace of mind and answers seems like a bargain to me,” Adams says.
The seven-member council decided to discuss the proposal further in October. In the meantime, they’re asking the department for specifics about cost and training.