Untested rape kit backlog called `unacceptable' at task force meeting
Legislation is needed to act on some recommendations developed by a task force examining the issue of untested rape kits in Oklahoma, Attorney General Mike Hunter said Thursday.
The task force added some new faces to the mix Thursday who could help propel efforts to test thousands of previously unsubmitted kits that have been identified and improve the state's response.
House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, of Oklahoma City, and Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, attended a task force meeting at Hunter's request. It was the first meeting since Hunter's office assumed authority over the task force last month.
Echols said money will be needed to fix the problem, and he thinks there will be an appetite in the Legislature to find a way to get that done.
“I think on the House side you're going to see a bipartisan effort to fix this problem,” he said. “I hope that when a member of leadership comes to a task force like this, it sends a clear signal that this is important to us. … There is nothing more important than taking care of our most vulnerable, and these kits all represent a potential victim of a violent crime.
“And frankly, to have them violated again by the length of time it's taken to get these tested is unacceptable.”
Sexual assault survivors can choose to have a forensic exam done to receive medical care and preserve potential DNA evidence. Evidence that is obtained is collected in what's commonly known as a rape kit.
More than 7,000 untested rape kits were identified through a statewide audit ordered by Gov. Mary Fallin last year.
“It is unacceptable for this to have occurred, but I think I speak for everybody — we're committed not only to getting caught up but making sure this never happens again,” said Hunter.
The task force, which includes law enforcement officers, a rape survivor, victim advocates and others, has spent more than a year examining the issue.
The task force has identified several areas where legislation is needed: to implement a statewide tracking system; to implement use of a standardized rape kit statewide; to mandate preservation of rape kits for 50 years; and to mandate law enforcement agencies submit kits for testing within 20 days going forward.