The Senate Public Safety Committee on Wednesday heard testimony from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) and Office of the Attorney General in an interim study hosted by Senate Democratic Leader Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, regarding the state’s response to the sexual assault kits backlog.
The study provided an overview of Oklahoma’s progress in analyzing the backlog of the forensic kits and gave lawmakers an update on the current case load of assault cases and kits. OSBI’s statutory role in analyzing the backlog and current sexual assault cases and kits was also discussed.
“This is an issue which effects all Oklahomans, and it remains a top priority of mine in the Senate,” Floyd said. “The number of sexual assault cases has been steadily increasing over the last decade – from about 1,500 cases in 2011 to a little over 2,200 reported in 2020. We’ve passed a measure to address the backlog of cases, and we are committed to keeping up with the current caseload.”
Floyd’s Senate Bill 967, passed in 2019, directed the OSBI to develop a statewide tracking system for evidence collection kits used to collect and preserve evidence of sexual offenses. It also required law enforcement to send rape kits for testing within 20 days of collection. Thus far, 2,965 pre-2019 and 4,281 post-2019 kits have been tracked and analyzed, while 2,736 kits await testing, said OSBI Criminalistics Division Director Andrea Fielding.
Melissa Blanton, Victim Services Unit chief in the Office of the Attorney General, is chair of the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Task Force (SAFE) and said numerous legislative recommendations made by the committee have been signed into law. Two bills will go into effect on Nov. 1 – SB 16 and House Bill 2546. SB 16, by Floyd and Rep. Carol Bush, R-Tulsa, will support sexual assault victims by giving them access to resources for counseling. HB 2546, by Rep. Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City, and Floyd, creates the Sexual Assault Victims’ Right to Information Act, which defines the rights of victims.
OSBI Director Rick Adams also addressed the committee.
“We’re on the right path to addressing our backlog of sexual assault test kits, and I’m thankful for the Legislature’s support,” Floyd said. “However, there’s more we can do, and I will continue work with the SAFE Task Force and the Legislature as we present and pass legislation to address the backlog and current cases.”