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Why Aren't All Rape Kits Tested?

Tim Slover

The Salt Lake City Council met with law enforcement officials yesterday to continue discussing the possibility of mandatory testing of all rape kits in the possession of the Salt Lake City Police Department.

Amid questions of how much it would cost to test every rape kit, and how long it would take to do so, the issue of exactly why all rape kits aren’t tested emerged. Sergeant Derek Christenson oversees the special 

victims unit of the Salt Lake City Police. He says that rape kits aren’t always necessary if the perpetrator admits to the encounter.    

“If he admits to a consensual encounter—he says, 'Nah, it was all consensual'—we won’t submit that one either, because that’s where we have to do police work,” says Christenson. “We have to figure out whether he’s telling the truth or not. And that’s where we have to interrogate him.”

When a rape kit is processed in a crime lab, the DNA results are uploaded to an FBI database called CODIS. Then a DNA profile of the unknown perpetrator is created and compared to others. If police already know the identity of an alleged perpetrator’s identity, the rape kit no longer meets the FBI’s requirements for entrance into CODIS. Under those circumstances, the Salt Lake City Police Department doesn’t test the kits. City Council member Erin Mendenhall isn’t satisfied with that policy. She voiced her concerns to Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank.   

“There’s a victim out there who says, ‘I was violated. And I was raped. And this is who did it.’ And he says, ‘You know what? You said yes.’  He’s not entered into the database,” says Mendenhall. “And we can’t necessarily tie him to unknowns out there.”

“But,” says Burbank, “see you have to still look at—you have to be able to prove someone committed a crime in order to be—“

“Her word isn’t enough to enter that into the database?” asks Mendenhall. 

“We don’t make this criteria,” responds Burbank. “This is something you want to take up with the FBI.”

The council did not vote Tuesday night on an ordinance that would require all rape kits be tested, but they continue to consider it.  Currently there are more than 600 untested rape kits in the custody of the Salt Lake City Police Department.  

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