OKLAHOMA CITY - Bold accusations were made against the Oklahoma City Police Department Thursday, as author Michelle Malkin discussed what she calls OCPD's 'scandal-riddled crime lab.'
"For an unknown number of years and in an unknown number of cases, the Oklahoma City Police Department crime lab has burned and buried evidence in sexual assault and homicide cases," Malkin said. "Not just because they need to save space, but to intentionally destroy it."
Malkin made the comments at a media conference Thursday morning. Also present were advocates and young sexual assault survivors speaking out to endorse legislation to better regulate sexual assault investigation protocol across the state.
"Recent depositions confirmed that boxes of evidence were shoved into a 'big old hole down by the river' every three or four years," Malkin said.
But police say that's not the case.
"We don't do it, we've never done it. I have no idea what she was talking about," said Major Jason Clifton over OCPD's Investigations Bureau. "We have no OCPD property where there's a standard hole where we destroy rape kits."
Maj. Clifton sits on the task force that deals with sex crimes, and explained that sweeping changes were made after work with advocates and subcommittees yielded a number of recommendations. He said prior to the protocol change, the handling of rape kits was heavily reliant on the discretion of detectives.
"In 2017, there was a directive from the former deputy chief to stop destroying rape kits," he explained. "Now, we keep [them] for fifty years, we stopped destroying rape kits a while back."
Malkin went on to say OCPD, and the state as a whole, has a track record of mishandling sexual assault evidence for decades. She said there are more than 7000 neglected rape kits statewide. She says police investigators often don't test the kits.
Maj. Clifton explained that, too, is part of the changes to protocol the department made.
"Every kit that comes in, unless the victim specifically ask it not be tested, is tested," Maj. Clifton said.
Malkin also said OCPD wrongly arrests a number of people, including one of their own, Daniel Holtzclaw, who was convicted of serial rape in 2015 in a high-profile case.
"After two years of investigating Daniel Holtzclaw’s case I can absolutely stand in front of you today and tell you that he is innocent of every last one of those charges," Malkin said.
Malkin named Holtzclaw and other cases as examples of how the handling of evidence and rape kits led to the wrong people arrested or for perpetrators to not be caught.
"Allowing real rapists to go free while depriving wrongfully convicted ones of life and liberty is not okay, Oklahoma," Malkin said.
Meanwhile, Maj. Clifton said the proposed bills that would harden timeframes for investigators and provide tracking of rape kits for survivors will add to their mission of evolving their sex crimes investigations.
"We're focused on the victim, we've modified the way we've asked questions," he said. He also mentioned a Victim Services Unit offered to address any concerns or needs survivors may have.