According to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, more than 1,900 rapes were reported in the state in 2015 alone. Sexual assault forensic evidence kits help collect and preserve evidence following an assault, but there is no law in Oklahoma requiring these kits to be tracked or tested, and national data suggests some kits may never be tested. It’s an issue Sen. Kay Floyd has been working to address this session.
“Frankly, we don’t know what the numbers are and that’s the point of doing a study,” said Floyd, D-Oklahoma City. “But untested kits could represent key evidence that can connect the dots in many assaults. It could mean more prosecutions and prevent additional assaults in the future.”
Floyd had originally sought the creation of a task force through legislation filed for the 2017 session, and has met with the governor’s office, the attorney general’s office, police, prosecutors and advocates about the issue of untested rape kits. On Monday, Gov. Mary Fallin announced she had issued an Executive Order to create the task force.
“We’re grateful to the governor for her support on this issue and for the members of law enforcement, district attorneys, and advocates who have worked with us as well. The task force is an important step for our state as we work to document the scope of untested kits, identify how we can eliminate the backlog of untested rape kits and better assure the rights of victims throughout the process,” Floyd said.
Executive Order 2017-11 forms the Oklahoma Task Force on Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence. It designates the make-up of the task force, its goals, and the timeline for law enforcement agencies throughout the state to submit their audits of untested kits and the deadline for submitting the final task force report to the governor and legislative leaders. The task force will:
Examine the process for gathering and analyzing rape kits; identify the number of untested kits through audits done by all law enforcement agencies in the state;
Identify how to improve law enforcement training on responding and investigating sexual assaults;
Identify improvements for victims access to evidence other than sexual assault forensic evidence kits, including but not limited to police reports and other physical evidence;
Identify possible procedures for the testing of anonymous sexual assault evidence kits;
Identify additional rights of victims about the evidence kit testing process; and
Identify and pursue grants and other funding sources to eliminate the backlog of untested kits, reduce testing wait times, provide victim notification and improve efficiencies in the kit testing process.
Local police and sheriffs’ departments will have until December 30, 2017, to file a written report with the Attorney General and the Task Force stating the audit results, including the number of untested kits they have. Those agencies must preserve the kits until the Task Force notifies them in writing that they may be disposed of. The final report by the Task Force must be completed and submitted to the governor and legislative leaders by July 1, 2018.