Wasilla's Police Chief Charged Rape Victims for Forensic Testing Under Mayor Sarah Palin

September 9, 2008

In a proclamation recognizing that Alaska has “the highest per capital occurrence of sexual assault in the nation at 2.5 times the national average,” Gov. Sarah Palin earlier this year proclaimed the month of April “Sexual Assault Awareness Month.”

But her record still doesn’t show that she gets it.

As mayor of Wasilla, where she served for two terms between 1996 and 2002, Palin hired a police chief with a highly offensive and unusual attitude toward crime investigation: making victims of sexual assault pay for their own forensic exams as part of the crime investigation.

It’s an incredible story that’s making the rounds today.

In 2000, then Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles signed legislation that put an end to police departments billing victims for the tests, but the Wasilla police chief was none too happy about the switch. From the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman (May 23, 2000):

The new law makes it illegal for any law enforcement agency to bill victims or victims insurance companies for the costs of examinations that take place to collect evidence of a sexual assault or determine if a sexual assault did occur.

We would never bill the victim of a burglary for fingerprinting and photographing the crime scene, or for the cost of gathering other evidence, Knowles said. Nor should we bill rape victims just because the crime scene happens to be their bodies.

While the Alaska State Troopers and most municipal police agencies have covered the cost of exams, which cost between $300 to $1,200 apiece, the Wasilla police department does charge the victims of sexual assault for the tests.

Wasilla Police Chief Charlie Fannon does not agree with the new legislation, saying the law will require the city and communities to come up with more funds to cover the costs of the forensic exams.

In the past weve charged the cost of exams to the victims insurance company when possible. I just dont want to see any more burden put on the taxpayer, Fannon said.

According to Fannon, the new law will cost the Wasilla Police Department approximately $5,000 to $14,000 a year to collect evidence for sexual assault cases.

Yes, we’re talking about that little money. But besides that, the police department didn’t charge other crime victims for evidence gathering and testing. Just those whose bodies happened to be part of the investigation.

I suppose one might appreciate the attempt to charge the insurance company instead of the victim — unless of course the victim didn’t HAVE health insurance. And even if the victim did, could you imagine adding working out the billing with your insurance company to the list of things you have to deal with after being raped? And what happened if the victim couldn’t come up with the money for the test?

This is mind-boggling on so many levels. Just one more question for Palin, who also doesn’t believe women who are victims of rape or incest should be allowed the choice of having an abortion …

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