OK AG announces state-awarded grant to address rape kit backlog

OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Mike Hunter today announced the state has been awarded the federal Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) Grant to help collect, prioritize and test a number of the sexual assault forensic evidence kits that have been identified in police evidence rooms.

The three-year, $2.4 million grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, will fund the initiatives put forth by the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence (SAFE) Task Force after an audit identified over 7,000 sexual assault evidence kits were in police evidence rooms statewide.

“We have made tremendous progress over the last few years in improving the entire process in our state,” Attorney General Hunter said. “This funding is going to help us expedite the reforms we have implemented, like the collection and testing of rape kits, while putting more resources toward helping victims. It will also assist us as we continue to reform the system to ensure the backlog never happens again. The grant announcement wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication of the members of the SAFE Task Force, who have given so much time and attention to this very important issue.”

Governor Kevin Stitt signed legislation recommended by the task force earlier this year and also signed an executive order extending the work of the task force through 2023.

“Because of the work and dedication of the members of the SAFE Task Force, our state now serves as a national model on how to end the backlog,” Governor Stitt said. “It is thanks to our significant progress in overhauling the system that our state was able to receive these funds to expedite the collection and testing of some of the kits. I applaud the members of the task force, who continue to do an exemplary job on behalf of victims of sexual assault.”

The state will use the funding to collect rape kits currently in law enforcement custody, categorize them to determine which kits will be submitted for testing and hire four positions: a project manager that will assist district attorneys in re-opening cases, a victim advocate who will work directly with victims, a lead investigator and an additional agent who will work on cases.

Funding will also be provided to pay for overtime for lab technicians already on staff at the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

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