OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma’s problem of a massive backlog of untested rape kits has gone on for years, but now even more cases are being piled on top.
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation explained in a press conference on Friday the battles they have been facing when it comes to tackling that load: new legislation and employee turnover.
“The problem with it was is it first came in as a trickle, or a dripping faucet, and it turned into a river of these new cases,” said Ricky Adams, OSBI director.
Adams, referring to the impact of a 2019 law that requires rape kits be submitted within 20 days of receiving them.
“It has created some significant increases to the number of cases that we see in our laboratory,” said Andrea Fielding, OSBI’s Director of Forensic Science Services.
Before the law, the OSBI said each month it received 25-30 sexual assault cases. Now, it is upwards of 100 cases each month.
So they’ve seen their work more than triple, something officials said they did not anticipate.
“That explains why our time to process these went from 40 days prior to that law being in effect to now it takes us about 300 days to work a kit,” said Fielding.
The biggest obstacle is manpower.
“In the last year and a half, we’ve had several of our experienced personnel with promote, retire or resign to take other jobs,” said Fielding. “So we’ve had to fill those positions, in addition to trying to bring these new 10 people on and get them trained.”
OSBI officials said they are working overtime, but this process will still take years.
“Ultimately, the time we expect it’s going to take us to clear these task force cases is about four to five years,” said Fielding.
Fielding told News 4 that OSBI has a list of priorities for tackling the growing list of kits. The highest of those being crimes against children, the elderly and mentally incapacitated, along with cases where suspects are truly unknown. They then continue on from there.