A two-year effort led by the City Council to improve the process of rape-kit testing in Salt Lake has resulted in a positive turnaround, both in numbers and police procedures in investigating sexual assault cases.
SLC Police Chief Mike Brown reported to the Council this week the entire city backlog of Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kits (rape kits) in custody from a ten-year period –768 rape kits in total — had been submitted for processing at the state crime lab.
All 179 new kits in 2015 were sent for DNA testing, too.
Brown said at the May 17 Council Work Session that additional training in the last year for officers working with victims of sexual assault has been successful. He noted the training has made a positive change in the way SLCPD handles many aspects of sexual assault cases. See his briefing here.
“The Chief told us there has been a comprehensive turnaround in their process, a complete ‘180’ in the last year,” said Council Chair James Rogers. “We are pleased Salt Lake is helping lead the way in making a priority of improving the way the cases are handled in Utah.”
In late 2014, the Council set a new policy direction for the City when dealing with sexual assault cases, which included an annual update during the budget process from SLCPD on the progress of kit testing. The Council also set in motion money for training, and funding for hiring a forensic scientist to accelerate processing kits in the future.
Other changes by the Council over the two-year period included:
endorsing a one-page guiding policy document (see here);
passing a 2014 ordinance that specified kits (Code R) be tested for DNA at a level eligible for the National Crime DNA database(CODIS) entry; and
requiring information be brought to the Council on the cost, scope, and timing of a legislative audit looking at the system of criminal justice.
Council Members have requested that related officer training be continued in the years ahead. That request is expected to be discussed as part the 2016-17 budget deliberations that end in June.