Thursday, January 18, 2018
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today urged law enforcement agencies to comply with the request from the Oklahoma Task Force on Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence to look for untested rape kits in their possession.
The governor’s April 2017 executive order set a Dec. 30, 2017, deadline for law enforcement agencies to audit their evidence rooms and submit their findings to the task force and the state attorney general’s office. The information is to include the number of untested evidence collection kits in their possession.
However, just about 60 percent of the sheriff’s offices and less than half of the municipal police departments across the state have responded.
“We should be doing everything we can to support the survivors of this horrific crime,” said Fallin. “This information is crucial to ensure rape victims are able to seek justice and begin the healing process.”
Fallin exhorted law enforcement agencies that haven’t yet complied to audit their evidence rooms and notify the task force by Feb. 15. Law enforcement agencies failing to comply by that date risk losing federal grant money that is administered by state agencies, Fallin said.
The governor ordered the task force to use the information submitted by Feb. 15 to proceed with issuing its report, and to list the law enforcement agencies that failed to respond. The task force has a deadline of July 1 to submit its findings and recommendations based on the results of the audits to the governor and legislative leaders.
“Gathering this information is an important first step in bringing justice to sexual assault survivors whose cases have been delayed for years,” Fallin said. “Law enforcement agencies need to account for untested kits in their custody so that communities can begin to take steps to hold offenders accountable.”
Fallin formed the Oklahoma Task Force on Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence to address the backlog of sexual assault forensic evidence kits, commonly known as rape kits, in the criminal justice system in Oklahoma.
She assigned the task force to conduct an audit of sexual assault forensic evidence kits in the state, pinpointing the number of untested kits, and then to identify possible improvements in law enforcement training, victims’ rights and access, and the process for gathering and analyzing rape kits. Oklahoma does not have a statewide tracking system for rape kits nor a mandate to test all rape kits. In addition, current regulations are unclear regarding when and how to destroy untested kits.