Authorities offer more transparency in sexual assault investigations

Posted at 10:02 PM, Apr 16, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-17 00:02:14-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- We learned Tuesday there are hundreds of untested rape kits in the Salt Lake City Police Department. A city council member, sexual assault victim advocates, and some victims themselves say more needs to be done.

During a news conference Wednesday, Chief Chris Burbank announced he will provide unprecedented access to the process of Code R Kit - or rape kit - examinations. His department is working with the District Attorney's Office and Department of Public Safety on this project.

Starting June 1, you'll see a new page on the Salt Lake City Police Department's website, titled "Code R Project."

Rape survivor Jessica Ripley said, "I think it will bring some closure, help me at least and others heal, because then you can see that there's at least something being done about it."

The new page will have basic information on each case, whether or not the Code R kit was sent to the lab and why, lab results, databases searched, whether or not the case is sent to the District Attorney's office and why, and the final conclusion to each case.

"We are standing before you today, standing before the public to say, 'Yes we are accountable for what we do and we are going to demonstrate how we go through this process, and if we find room for improvement we will make those changes,'” Burbank said.

Burbank said this project has been months in the making, but comes just a day after Salt Lake City Councilman Kyle LaMalfa questioned the chief on the unprocessed rape kits.

LaMalfa responded to Wednesday's announcement.

"Positive action is being taken,” she said. “It's still on the table whether it's important to the service of justice that all rape kits be processed. I think that's still an open question."

Sexual assault victim advocates said they are happy to see this unprecedented access and transparency from the department, the DA's office, and the Department of Public Safety.

Holly Mullen, Executive Director of the Rape Recovery Center says, "I think this will help open up a big public discussion about what exactly is sexual violence, who does it, why it happens, who's responsible - which is the perpetrator, not the victim."

Burbank said any identifying information provided in these backlogged cases will be redacted so privacy remains intact.