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Did Palin Approve Charging Rape Victims for Rape Kits?

Floating all around the blogosphere right now is the charge that, while Mayor of Wasilla, the town’s police department charged rape victims for the cost of the rape kits used in the forensic investigation of the crime. This claim is based on an article from Wasilla’s hometown paper the Frontiersman, which regards then-Governor Mike Knowles signing into law a bill outlawing the practice in 2000, when Palin was Mayor of Wasilla. Here’s the passage being focused on:

Gov. Tony Knowles recently signed legislation protecting victims of sexual assault from being billed for tests to collect evidence of the crime, but one local police chief said the new law will further burden taxpayers.

[...]

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 we’ve 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.

[Quotations marks and apostrophe in fourth paragraph added for clarity--the link is a plain text file and the quotation marks and apostrophes may have been lost.]

This was a pretty appalling policy. As the article notes, this was not the practice in the town of Palmer, a neighbor to Wasilla, so it’s not as though this was merely a “business as usual” deal. Personally, I scoffed a little bit when Chief Fannon noted that they charge the victim’s insurance company, as though that makes it okay. Last time I checked, the police don’t charge your homeowner’s insurance when they lift fingerprints after a burglary. And what if the insurance company denied the claim? Or applied a deductible? In those cases, the victim would still be left bearing the cost of the forensic investigation of crime committed against her.

Most of the sites who are blogging this story are, of course, stating that Palin absolutely supported this policy, which I don’t think is warranted by the evidence at hand. That said, there’s a good case to be made that Palin was aware of this policy. For one, as Mayor, Palin forbade city officials from talking to the press unless it was cleared by her first. Given that the article directly quotes Chief Fallon (a Palin appointee and political ally), the prima facie evidence would lead one to believe she was aware of what Fallon was going to say about the policy.

Second, I don’t think that Palin could brush this off as saying that she wasn’t involved in police policy because she was, as mayor, intimately involved with the Police Department. For one thing, she was one of the group of Wasilla citizens who fought to install a Police Department in the first place (to her credit, I might add.) Also, as Mayor, she made several policy directives towards the department, including (again to her credit) encouraging police officers to stop patrolling in cars and start getting to know the neighborhood.

Given the above, I don’t think it’s fair to say necessarily that Palin explicitly supported this practice. However, as Mayor, the buck stops with her. She probably knew that the policy existed, and if she didn’t she sure as hell should have–Alaska is notorious for its high rates of rape (2.4 times the national average), so it’s not as though this is something that wasn’t going to affect her citizens.

If nothing else, I’d say that this is fair game to ask more questions and gather information about. If it turns out to be true that Palin allowed this policy under her Mayoral Administration, I would say that that calls into question her judgment and decency.

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About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp writes about pretty much everything under the sun, including politics, art, religion, philosophy, sports, music, culture, and science.

Comments

  1. bains says:

    If nothing else, I’d say that this is fair game to ask more questions and gather information about.

    In your search to find things damaging to Gov Palin, you are opening all sorts of doors for criticism of Sen Obama.

    Again, Palin is just the VP candidate.

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  2. rodney dill says:

    I don’t think it’s fair to say necessarily that Palin explicitly supported this practice.

    So even with your disclaimers, its basically no story.

    Where is your post on Obama’s admitted drug use?

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  3. just me says:

    For clarity I am not in support of charging rape victims for rape kits.

    Although I can understand small towns being burdened by the costs of this kind of lab. Perhaps a better solution would be a state fund that would help offset the costs for smaller jurisdictions.

    Last time I checked, the police don’t charge your homeowner’s insurance when they lift fingerprints after a burglary. And what if the insurance company denied the claim? Or applied a deductible? In those cases, the victim would still be left bearing the cost of the forensic investigation of crime committed against her.

    First of all they do not charge homeowners to do finger prints, but the homeowner is responsible for cleaning up after whatever the police do in the course of the investigation. Probably not a great comparison.

    And if the insurance company denies the claim, the police department writes off the balance and doesn’t require payment to be made. The only person that would come against the victim would be the police department, and it sounds like they aren’t seeking payment where there is no insurance or insurance refuses to pay-although you may have more information.

    That said-I doubt it is very good for the pyschological well being of the rape victim to get an insurance statement in the mail denying the charge etc. Which is why this isn’t a good idea. But it also doesn’t sound like the police department is turning rape victims over to collections for not paying.

    As for what Palin thinks-perhaps before we rake her over the coals on this people should actually find a quote where she states here opinion one way or the other. I also wouldn’t assume the mayor was aware of the billing for the rape kits-that seems to be much more of a departmental issue. Once the issue came to the forefront the mayor would’ve known, but the only opinion in that piece is the one of the police not the mayor.

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  4. DL says:

    We are fighting the wrong battle by spending all our time on defense. Call them the dirtbags they are and attack them make them spin their wheels responding -unless of course, their attacks become to them friendly fire (as in the NBC firing of the two wild eyed Obama fans)

    A thought: This pig thing has legs. Hire Miss Piggy to do the Sarah palin attack ads and send out thousands of transparent lipstick logos to attach to those Obama is the messiah posters.

    With a little luck you might draw out the ever angry Michelle and then it’s a shoo in for the GOP.

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  5. DC Loser says:

    She was for it before she was agains it…again.

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  6. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Has this site become the Us magagzine of the blogs? I do not recall Alex investigating every little inuendo that Obama associated with a radical preacher, teacher or land speculator. Alex, did you look in to whether or not Obama was raised a muslim, his voting record in the Illinois Senate, his college records? Why the interest in Sarah Palin? Is it because she is kicking the Democrats ass?

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  7. If it turns out to be true that Palin allowed this policy under her Mayoral Administration, I would say that that calls into question her judgment and decency.

    Meanwhile the judgment and decency of those who post articles like this are beyond reproach, because of the seriousness of the charges! Do you really think it is fair and honorable to throw these kind of charges up and then say something to the effect of, “but of course, there may not be anything to them.” Aspiring for a position on the Washington Post perhaps?

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  8. Alex Knapp says:

    Zeldorf and Charles,

    If you have information to clear up this matter, please provide it. I myself would prefer to believe that Palin was not involved in this ugly policy, but there’s a strong prima facie case that she was. If you’ve got info to the contrary, please let me know and I’ll update the post.

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  9. Alex Knapp says:

    Where is your post on Obama’s admitted drug use?

    Who the hell cares? I’m for the legalization of drugs. I have no problem with people using drugs, as long as they don’t hurt anyone while doing so. If Obama had a DUI, trust me, I’d be all over it.

    Forcing a rape victim to pay to investigate a rape charge, however, is abominable.

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  10. Chris says:

    The GOP sure seems defensive about their new mascot. She’s in the big leagues now. You republicans know as much about her as we democrats do, therefore your new-found love of her is cloying to normal people.

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  11. Victor says:

    Yes, by all means ask the questions. But I will note that you haven’t provided support for this assertion:

    “In those cases, the victim would still be left bearing the cost of the forensic investigation of crime committed against her.”

    Specifically, it is quite possible that they worked with a local hospital and settled the coinsurance and deductibles directly with the department. A different state, but here’s a recent description of NC doing this exact thing: link.

    Of course, I fail to see why the insurance company should have to pay, either, but in the bigger scheme of “government passing the buck to private insurance”, this is a small potato.

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  12. I don’t have the time, resources or inclination to try and refute every charge you or the Obama campaign can throw up against the wall hoping it will stick. The burden is on you to prove the charges you make Alex, not on me to disprove them.

    Your’s is an old debating trick or campaign tactic to make your opponent spend all his or her time responding to your accusations, thereby preventing him or her from getting their message out. Nice try, but as Joan Crawford once said, “this ain’t my first time at the rodeo.” And somehow, I doubt it is Governor Palin’s either.

    I trust you can infer the requisite allusions.

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  13. Alex Knapp says:

    Charles,

    I don’t expect you to dig into it, but if you’ve got any counters that come up, I would honestly be interested.

    However, let’s look at the facts. The Chief of Police admitted that they charge victime of rape for the cost of their kits. Wasilla is a small town. The Chief was a Palin appointee. Palin had a standing order that no City officials would talk to the press without clearing it with her office, first.

    It may have been an internal department policy, but Palin helped create the Police Department in 1992 when she was on the City Council of Wasilla. As Mayor, she involved herself with the inner workings of the Police Department.

    Personally, I think this makes a strong, prima facie case that Palin was aware of the Department’s policy and did not do anything to change it. If that’s true, I find that to be pretty deplorable. However, given the lack of direct quotes from Palin in the article, it remains a prima facie case. A strong case, to be sure, but I truly am open to counter-evidence. Frankly, I’d like it. There’s a chance that Palin might be President one day. Given that, I would hope that she’s the kind of person who would not allow a policy like this. I think it’s beyond the pale.

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  14. Alex Knapp says:

    Victor,

    Specifically, it is quite possible that they worked with a local hospital and settled the coinsurance and deductibles directly with the department.

    That might be, but a town of 9000 almost ten years ago may or may not have had the resources to do that. Even so, I don’t think that’s good policy.

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  15. Personally, I think this makes a strong, prima facie case that Palin was aware of the Department’s policy and did not do anything to change it. If that’s true, I find that to be pretty deplorable.

    If. If your personal belief of this version of a chain of events is true. Got it. Again, the burden remains on you — not me to resolve your hypothetical. Sometimes, I think I should have been a lawyer.

    For the record, I have no counters and do not expect to acquire any since I will not be headed up to Wasilla to do opposition research or any other kind of research, nor do I carry a torch for John McCain. Your torch carrying for Senator Obama is becoming a bit embarrassing though.

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  16. Victor says:

    That might be, but a town of 9000 almost ten years ago may or may not have had the resources to do that. Even so, I don’t think that’s good policy.

    So, I guess we can agree there is a prima facie case that Palin was insensitive to the needs of the health insurance industry. Although I’m not sure the gag order from her first term in office really is good evidence that she knew about this policy.

    Given that the cited article twice mentions that the Wasilla PD already partially funds the kits, I’m still not buying the case that she was insensitive to victims (the complaint was the *additional* funding required, not a statement that they didn’t fund to begin with). We definitely need more information to prove this case.

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  17. G.A.Phillips says:

    Who the hell cares? I’m for the legalization of drugs. I have no problem with people using drugs, as long as they don’t hurt anyone while doing so. If Obama had a DUI, trust me, I’d be all over it.

    So the fact that everyone that uses drugs is hurting themselves and every one around them means you are really against drugs?

    too bad you don’t come from the streets and have not seen the effects the have on everyone and their families, maybe you would not say such silly things, drugs are bad dude, and so are the peaces of sh-t that promote them and sell them.

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  18. just me says:

    As Mayor, she involved herself with the inner workings of the Police Department.

    And you know this how? Most inter departmental policies like this generally are established inside the police department and aren’t really something the mayor does.

    Our town mayor has very little to do with departmental policy-the mayor works with the city council to establish budgets and budget needs, but they don’t set the policy in my town. If there is a policy issue problem they may call in the chief to explain himself, but departmental policy is set by the chief.

    so what evidence to you have that Palin was this involved, or are you speculating?

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  19. Alex Knapp says:

    Just me,

    And you know this how? Most inter departmental policies like this generally are established inside the police department and aren’t really something the mayor does.

    This was actually my first thought, but if you check out the articles I linked, you’ll see that (a) Palin was one of the group of people responsible for getting a Department in Wasilla, and (b) Palin was involved in sending policy memos directly to the Chief of Police.

    I agree that this isn’t open and shut, which is why I think that this is merely a prima facie case, not a conclusion. But she appears to have been more involved in police operations than a typical small-town Mayor, which is why I couldn’t just dismiss it out of hand (which is actually what I was prepared to do when I wrote the post–most of the bloggers who wrote about this story were ridiculously over the top and I wanted to do a piece debunking this thing, but I found that I couldn’t given Palin’s history). I am very open to the case that she wasn’t involved in setting this policy, but I haven’t found it.

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  20. [...] knew I didn’t personally like Palin, but this article and others has me angry beyond words. How can anyone actually believe women who’ve been raped should be [...]

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  21. This whole thing is nutty, using nice words here.

    I read through blogs and news articles since this surfaced and as a recent victim of violent rape here is what I had to say:

    http://rape-and-sexual-assault.blogspot.com/2008/09/rape-victims-view-of-palin-and-rape-kit.html

    Victoria Placeo

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  22. larryatlarge says:

    Your article has no objectivity. You are spewing left wing venom And the main reason you shouldn’t be taken seriously: NO RAPE KITS WERE EVER CHARGED TO VICTIMS in Wasilla, as evidenced by this official report by the city:

    Your article, if it had made any attempt to be fair would have included this, but to you hacks, fair reporting is the last thing on your minds.

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  23. [...] The Democrats think she’s a terrible person.  The Republicans think she’s a terrible leader. [...]

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  24. [...] couple weeks back, I posted on a news report circulating the blogs that provided at least a prima facie case that the City of Wasilla Police Department was charging [...]

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  25. lady says:

    lady…

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