Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Franciso Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) SLC Police Chief Chris Burbank holds a news conference to announce the "Code R Kit Project" that comes on the heels of criticism that police and the state lab are not processing rape kits for forensic evidence. Burbank was joined by Utah Public Safety Commissioner Keith Squires, left, and Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.
Editorial: Transparency builds trust in rape-kit process

Transparency will build trust

First Published Apr 17 2014 06:13 pm • Last Updated Apr 18 2014 10:57 am

A heated exchange involving Salt Lake City’s police chief and a member of the City Council has prompted quick action from Police Chief Chris Burbank, and the Salt Lake County Attorney’s Office that could bring more rapists to justice.

While Burbank took umbrage with criticism from Councilman Kyle LaMalfa about the lack of evaluations of hundreds of rape evidence "kits," he also rightly took the criticism to heart. His plan for more transparency should mean better communication among law enforcement agencies and quicker evaluation of evidence.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

The lack of rape convictions is serious.

Studies show that only about 12 percent of rapes are ever reported and the number of those that are eventually prosecuted is only 6 percent in Salt Lake County.

An advocate for rape victims told the City Council that, in many cases of reported sexual assault, forensic evidence gathered from the victim – including DNA from semen and saliva ­- is never analyzed.

That evidence, collected from victims by specially trained nurses, is called a Code R kit, or rape kit.

The kits must be analyzed at the state crime lab to help prosecutors decide whether to pursue a case. But of 1,001 sexual assault investigations from 2003 to 2011, the Salt Lake City Police Department has not forwarded 788 — nearly 79 percent — of rape kits for processing at the crime lab.

Burbank said the startling statistic can often be explained by weaknesses in cases. Sometimes the alleged victim or other witnesses may not be reliable, he said. And he blamed the state lab for failing to be a "good partner" in the process.

Nevertheless, the figure of only 20 percent of rape kits being processed is alarming. Women who are attacked – and statistics show one in eight Utah women will be raped, higher than the national average – may be hesitant to report a rape when their attackers will probably not be caught. And the number of convictions is not much of a deterrent.

Burbank’s plan to make the process more transparent so city officials and the public can determine whether police, the state crime lab or the county district attorney’s office is to blame – or whether other problems with the case make conviction unlikely – is a good start. He said he will post online information on 625 of the cases, protecting the identity of victims.


story continues below
story continues below

County District Attorney Sim Gill proposes better teamwork among investigators, forensic specialists and prosecutors, so decisions on prosecution are made collectively.

Bringing this serious problem to light could result in justice for more rape victims. That should be the goal of everyone in law enforcement.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.