Oklahoma facing delay in processing backlogged rape kits

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A lack of manpower and some recent laws are causing a backlog of rape kits in the state that need to be processed.

According to an article from The Frontier, it takes OSBI about 300 days to process rape kits now.

A 2018 audit found more than 7,000 untested rape kits. Some of them are decades old. Now, agencies are trying to process them.

In 2019, Oklahoma passed a law giving agencies 20 days to submit rape kits for testing.

While Oklahoma City and Tulsa police process their own, OSBI handles kits from the rest of the state, and those are adding up.

No one from OSBI was available for an interview Thursday, but the agency recently told The Frontier that a lack of manpower makes things difficult.

“They recognize how important rape kits are to an investigation and to victims, and they really want to clear this backlog too, but they’re so stretched thin with resources,” The Frontier reporter Kassie McClung said.

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A lab worker on the job.

The YWCA says the wait time can be difficult for survivors.

“It could be very frustrating for a sexual assault survivor that went through the process of having that forensic evidence collected from their body and really expecting that result in a more timely fashion,” Amanda Kemp with YWCA OKC said.

Tulsa Police Department officials say some old rape kits go untested for reasons like a lack of criminal charges or uncooperative victims.

The department has about 3,000 untested kits.

“It’s not that we didn’t think about these and lost these, in that investigative process the decision was made,” Lt. Darin Ehrenrich with the Tulsa Police Department said.

He says it could take a month to process high priority cases, like if there’s a serial rape suspect.

For lower priority cases, where there could be an uncooperative victim, results could take a year to get back.

Oklahoma City police say it takes less than a month to process new rape kits.

For the remaining ones, the priority system is the same as Tulsa’s. 

Investigators in Oklahoma City still have a thousand untested kits to go, and police say helping survivors is essential.

“The end goal is to present the best case we can and take care of them,” Deputy Chief Jason Clifton said.

If you are experiencing domestic violence or sexual assault, you can find resources here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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