Texoma agencies under the gun to comply with rape kit mandate

MARSHALL COUNTY, Okla. (KXII) -- UPDATE: Lindsay and Caney Police Departments tell us they have notified the state that they have no untested rape kits.

In 2008, more than 11,000 untested rape kits were found in a Detroit evidence room. The backlog discovery spurred initiatives for change throughout the country, including Oklahoma.

Governor Mary Fallin issued an executive order back in April giving law enforcement agencies until December 30 to audit their evidence rooms and submit their findings. But, as of January, Fallin said only 60 percent of sheriffs' offices and less than half of Oklahoma's police departments have complied.

Fallin is now urging Oklahoma law enforcement agencies to comply with an executive order to log untested rape kits, which includes more than a dozen law enforcement agencies in Texoma.

"Gathering this information is an important first step in bringing justice to sexual assault survivors whose cases have been delayed for years,” Fallin said. “Law enforcement agencies need to account for untested kits in their custody so that communities can begin to take steps to hold offenders accountable."

Twenty Texoma agencies are listed as noncompliant.

We reached out to all of them on Monday.

Six agencies responded to us, including Marshall County Sheriff Danny Cryer.

"We checked our inventory found we had no untested rape kits,” Cryer said. “I filled out the form and submitted it back to the Governor's office, so I was under the impression we were compliant with that. When you told me we were non-compliant I was quite shocked."

Pushmataha County and Coal County also told us they didn’t have any kits and they had no idea they were not in compliance.

Achille Police said they haven't had a rape case in two years and have no rape kits that date back further.

Fallin said that's another issue.

Oklahoma does not have a statewide tracking system for rape kits nor a mandate to test all rape kits, and that current regulations are unclear regarding when and how to destroy untested kits.

Choctaw County, Love County and Kingston Police said they would have to get back to us about their kit update on Tuesday.

We were unable to get in touch with anyone from Atoka County, Carter County, Murray County, Ada Police, Bennington Police, Boswell Police, Caney Police, Dickson Police, Lindsay Police, Ratliff Police, Stonewall Police or Tushka Police.

Roff was also on the list of noncompliance, despite no longer having a police department. The Pontotoc County Sheriff’s Office took over law enforcement duties in Roff in 2016. Sheriff John Christian said all Roff’s evidence was inventoried and placed in their evidence room and they had no rape kits in their evidence. State representatives said Roff will be taken off the list.

Any law enforcement agency that wishes to comply should contact Alex Gerszewski with the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office at alex.gerszewski@oag.ok.gov

Statewide, 166 law enforcement agencies have responded statewide so far, turning in 3,230 untested kits.

Of those, 28 were from Durant Police, with the oldest one dating back to 1996.

The report states the most common reason for not testing (6 of the 28) was that the suspect was known and claimed it was consensual.
Another reason cited for not testing was a lack of victim cooperation.

Eight kits had “other” or no reason listed.

According to the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation, rape cases have only increased for the last three years, with 1,877 in 2014, 1,948 in 2015 and 2,134 in 2016.

"My opinion on the rape kits in general they all need to be tested,” Cryer said. “These are ongoing crimes and we always want to bring violators to justice. These are very traumatizing cases and crimes and it’s certainly something that needs to be put on the front lines as far as investigation.”

Fallin extended the deadline to submit the rape kit logs to Feb. 15.

Law enforcement agencies that don't comply by that date risk losing federal grant money.

Fallin said the Sexual Assault Task Force is also looking for possible improvements in law enforcement training, victims’ rights and access, and the process for gathering and analyzing rape kits.

They aim to publish a findings and recommendations report by July 1, and will list the law enforcement agencies that failed to respond.

But funding to test all the kits will also been an issue, as Fallin has yet to announce a plan that would pay for all the kits to be tested.

One option could be a fundraising effort, like Detroit’s “Enough Said” campaign.

Their website states individuals and business donors from 45 states and eight countries have contributed close to $750,000. They’re testing 10,000 kits, which they said have resulted in at least 69 rapists off the streets so far.

End The Backlog, a Joyful Heart Foundation initiative, is another initiative project geared at getting untested rape kits off the shelves. Their website states thousands of backlogged rape kits in Cleveland, Detroit, and Memphis led to the identification of nearly 1,300 suspected serial rapists who have committed crimes across at least 40 states and Washington, D.C.



 
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