Oklahoma Awarded $2.4M Federal Grant to Help Address Rape Kit Backlog

Oct 7, 2019

Credit NPR

Oklahoma has been awarded a three-year, $2.4 million federal grant to help tackle a backlog of more than 7,000 rape kits an audit identified in police evidence rooms.

The grant is from the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance. It may be used to create an inventory of existing but unsubmitted rape kits, test kits, assign investigators to chase new leads and support victims. It may also be used to develop evidence tracking systems, train law enforcement on sexual assault investigations, reasearch sexual assault case outcomes and increase collection of offedner DNA.

The state will use the funding to collect rape kits currently in law enforcement custody, figure out which kits will be submitted for testing and hire employees to help push investigations forward.

Attorney General Mike Hunter said that will help Oklahoma build on reforms recommended by the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Task Force.

"We have made tremendous progress over the last few years in improving the entire process in our state," Hunter said in a news release. "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."

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