Lawton Police Department reacts to untested rape kits

LAWTON, OK (KSWO)-A recent audit of law enforcement agencies across Oklahoma revealed nearly 7,000 untested sexual assault and rape kits. The Lawton Police Department had just over 200, Duncan had 44, and Altus had 38 untested kits.

Public Information Officer Timothy Jenkins said the department has 207 untested rape kits. Those numbers were submitted to the Oklahoma Task Force on Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence. He said there are a number of different reasons why those kits haven't been tested. Sometimes the victim refuses to cooperate after filing a report or they decline to press charges.

"The Lawton Police Department is in compliance with the executive order and we believe that it will help victims We believe it will further help the victim get the answers they are looking for," said Jenkins.

Sergeant Timothy Jenkins said the untested kits were stored as evidence.

"We take those results and we take them to our police department and we put them in our proper room as evidence depending on how the case is going or if that person gets convicted or if we are able to find the suspect who did the crime depends on what we do with those results after that," said Jenkins.

He said there are some instances when they send those kits to the OSBI for testing but that is not always required.

"First off because it could be a DNA sample by Oklahoma statue we have to keep those on our property because it is still someone's DNA. Even if that person is convicted and serves their time we still have to keep that DNA contained in the evidence," said Jenkins.

He adds there are a number of reasons why some kits go untested.

"We have victims that don't want to cooperate or they want to go through the process anymore because they don't remember," said Jenkins.

Sergeant Jenkins said after a person is sexually assaulted or raped, there are a number of ways they can report it or the victim can go the hospital for help.

"If they want to they can submit to a SANE exam they will come to us and report the rape and depending on what they want to do there determines what we do whether they want to submit to the exam or they just want to report the incident at that time," said Jenkins.

SANE stands for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner. They are highly trained nurses who perform a test and analysis that can take up to two hours. Jenkins adds the department is working to find better ways they can help victims seek the answers they are looking for.

"We are always looking for different ways in the future to handle things better With the conjunction between our department and our Criminal Investigation Division going out and looking for ways and talking to each other and communicating we are going to find something," said Jenkins.

There will be a special meeting at the District Attorney's Council Office in Oklahoma City on Thursday to discuss the issue. The meeting will start at 1 p.m.
You can find a list of all the law enforcement agencies that submitted their results, here.

Governor Mary Fallin also issued a statement on the issues which reads in part:

"We should be doing everything we can to support the survivors of this horrific crime. This information is crucial to ensure rape victims are able to seek justice, and begin the healing process," said Governor Mary Fallin.

She's encouraged that more agencies are responding and taking the issue of processing rape kits seriously. The main purpose of the task force is to initially identity if there is a problem, and how we can find a better process to address the backlog of rape kits.

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