Councilman calls meeting to address backlog issue within Salt Lake City Police Department

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) - A city council meeting in Salt Lake Tuesday night got heated. The topic was a backlog of rape kits in the Salt Lake Police Department.

According to police data 625 rape kits, from 2004 to 2013, have yet to go to a lab for testing. Salt Lake councilman... Kyle Lamalfa called the meeting to find out why.

The briefing started with a question: how does salt lake dig itself out of this hole?

“There seems to be a lot of confusion about why we would come to have this huge back log that we have and it's going to take some effort to clear that backlog,” said Lamalfa.

Lamalfa wants every one of those rape kits tested and the DNA on file. So why are the kits still on the shelf?

Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Burbank says his detectives decide which crimes to work on a case by case basis.

“Whether it's a homicide, whether it's a rape, whether it's an aggravated assault. A detective evaluates the case before them and they make the determination on all the evidence,” said Burbank.

Could this evidence be on hold because of cost? That’s what some in the meeting asked. The kits are tested in a private lab to the tune of a $1,000 a pop.

“There's certainly money and there's certainly resources challenges overall...but there's not a single case where the detective says, this is what I want to do, where we say, no, you can't do it because of money.”

He says in some cases, the kits aren't tested because the victim knows the suspect.

You have the suspect that admits to it, and the victim that admits to it. That kit will not prove that case one way or another.”

Holly Mullen, the director of the Rape Recovery Center in Salt Lake says, there's more that could be learned from these kits like if the suspect has assaulted anyone else.

“There has to be a way to go through some of these cases that are just sitting on the shelf and really figure out, more methodically, more professionally, as to which ones need to be tested and how we can move that process along,” said Mullen.

Chief Burbank says he welcomes other suggestions and options.

“I would be happy to have someone to come in and look at those cases and if they say they think there's evidentiary value in here contrary to what the detective thinks. And if that's the case, we're happy to process those. …because we're not turning them down. And that's the important thing,” said Burbank.

Lamalfa says the city council is now putting together a committee to find the best way to resolve this back log.

Some suggestions include 72-hour rape kits, better training, and building better partnerships within city offices.

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