As the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation works to clear its rape kit backlog, an Oklahoma lawmaker will host an interim study on the agency’s progress.
Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, will host the study. She authored a bill that Gov. Kevin Stitt signed into law in 2019 requiring law enforcement agencies to submit rape kits for testing within 20 days. There were previously no legal requirements in Oklahoma for how long agencies had to retain all rape kits or when they had to test them.
The law has since tripled OSBI’s caseload. The agency processes rape kits for much of the state.
“I certainly never expected that was going to increase the number of kits submitted each month, but it has,” Floyd said. “And I think that’s a good thing because I think those people need closure. They need to have these issues resolved, and they need to have their kits tested and they need to know the results.”
The Frontier reported in June that the time it takes OSBI to process rape kits has increased from an average of 40 days to more than 300 over the past two years. The change in the law contributed to a new backlog of almost 1,300 untested kits.
OSBI was already wrestling with how to process its backlog of old cases after a statewide audit in 2018 discovered more than 7,200 untested kits in Oklahoma. OSBI is responsible for testing about 3,300 of those. The Tulsa and Oklahoma City police departments do their own testing. Some of the kits date back to the 1980s.
Floyd has worked for several years to reform how Oklahoma law enforcement agencies respond to reports of sexual assault and is a member of the state task force leading that effort.
She said the goal is for all kits to be tested within 45 days or less, but the state is “a few years from that.”
During a news conference on July 17, OSBI officials predicted it would take four to five years to clear the backlog.
Floyd said she hopes the study will spark open and transparent discussion about what led to Oklahoma’s backlog and what state leaders need to do to help get the kits tested. She also wants to research an increase in the number of reported sexual assaults in Oklahoma — which went from about 1,500 cases reported in 2011 to about 2,400 cases reported in 2019, she said.
The study is waiting to be scheduled by the committee chairman. Interim studies must be completed by Nov. 5.
“I would like to have a lot more information moving forward on how it is possible we have so many of these kits,” Floyd said. “Do we really have this many sexual assaults going on? That speaks to a much larger issue. If we have that kind of sexual assault going on in this state, that kind of criminal activity, then there’s some things we need to look at.”