The Tulsa Police Department says they’re on track when it comes to testing rape kits out of a backlog of 3,000.
A $1.5 million Department of Justice grant awarded in 2018 was supposed to pay for processing up to 650, as well as accompanying investigations and victim advocacy services. Capt. Jillian Phippen, who oversees the special victims unit, gave the city council an update this week.
"To date, we’ve tested 454 of those kits, and by the end of this grant, which is September of this year, we will have tested the full 650," Phippen said.
Kits that could result in prosecutions are being prioritized, but detectives don’t always get the outcome they want because of how long they’ve been in storage. For example, there was one kit where the victim identified had died before they got to it.
"That’s very hard to take because we wanted to be able to tell that victim we are in this with you and we want to now do the right thing, which was test her kit, and we found the offender," Phippen said.
There are kits nearing 40 years old in TPD storage awaiting processing. A private lab is testing those selected as part of the grant.
The department will apply for another three-year DOJ Sexual Assault Kit Initiative grant. Phippen said it’s not guaranteed, however, with a changing of administrations in Washington. A 2018 statewide inventory revealed Oklahoma law enforcement agencies had almost 7,300 untested rape kits in all.